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Poultry plant workers in southern Delaware vote to oust labor union

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Workers at a Mountaire Farms poultry processing plant in southern Delaware have voted to decertify the labor union that has been representing them, the company said Friday.

The company said more than 80% of workers who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 union voted to remove the union, according to a tally of mail-in votes at the National Labor Relations Board regional office in Baltimore on Thursday. The vote count, which was 356 to 80, is expected to be officially certified next week.

“After 44 years of union representation, the Selbyville plant takes a huge step forward today,” Mountaire President Phillip Plylar said in a prepared statement. “Our employees have just been asking for their voices to be heard, and today, they were heard loud and clear.”

A spokesman for the union did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The vote comes after the NLRB earlier this year rejected a previous decertification effort. The board voted 3-1 in April to overturn a regional NLRB director’s ruling last year that the decertification effort was not barred by an existing collective bargaining agreement for workers at the Selbyville facility because the labor agreement contained a “clearly unlawful” union-security clause.

Local 27 appealed the director’s ruling, saying the security clause at issue was not unlawful on its face and instead was capable of a “lawful interpretation.”

The regional director interpreted the clause in question as denying nonunion employees who were working for Mountaire when a new collective bargaining agreement was executed in February 2019 a 30-day grace period required under federal law before having to pay union dues. The clause stated that nonunion members had 31 days from the beginning of their employment, not 31 days from the date of the collective bargaining agreement, to become union members.

The board ruled that, because the union-security clause was subject to interpretation and not clearly unlawful, the decertification effort was prohibited under a “contract bar” doctrine that prevents workers from holding a decertification vote for up to three years after a collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Following the ruling, which meant that ballots that were cast by Mountaire workers in the summer of 2020 would not be counted, a Selbyville employee filed a petition in October to decertify the union. The mail-in ballot was sent to employees in November and had to be received by the NLRB by Thursday.

Mountaire Corp. and its affiliates, Mountaire Farms and Mountaire Farms of Delaware, operate facilities in Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

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