National Right-to-Work Foundation takes up case for West Virginia Kroger

WASHINGTON, DC – The acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, Peter Ohr is trying to stop a case brought by a West Virginia Kroger worker, Shelby Crocker who maintains the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 has been illegally collecting dues.

First, Patrick Semmens vice president of the National Right-to-Work Foundation believes Ohr’s appointment is not valid because his predecessor, Peter Robb was terminated without cause before his term was to expire. The purpose of the board structure is to ensure independence from political influence.

“The General Counsel who is the chief prosecutor with a four year term. The five board members all serve five year terms,” Semmens said,” That is designed to create a level of independence that’s different from the Department of Labor.”

The Biden administration terminated Robb on Inauguration Day. Robb’s term was to end in November of 2021.

Ohr has filed an action to send the dispute on behalf of Shelby Krocker to NLRB Region 6 in Pittsburgh to impose a settlement that would prevent the union from being forced to provide a full remedy for employees.

In February of 2016, West Virginia became a right-to-work state. Under that status, union membership is voluntary and not required as a condition of employment.

“Financial support is supposed to be voluntary and yet you have the UFCW local officials in this case telling workers here’s your card and it says it must be signed multiple times on it,” Semmens said,” Yet this is supposed to be a voluntary decision.”

According to Semmens, the forms mislead workers by prominently stating the form “MUST BE SIGNED” in large print.

NLRB Region 6 initially dismissed Krocker’s charge, but attorneys with the National Right-to-Work Foundation successfully appealed this dismissal to former NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb. Robb then ordered NLRB Region 6 to issue a complaint prosecuting UFCW Local 400 for the violations. That complaint would have led to a hearing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Semmens believes the move by Ohr to offer a settlement was to avoid a hearing with the NLRB where a loss could have meant sweeping costs and possible losses to the union.

“These other employees who may have been mislead into signing these cards need to know they didn’t have to sign them,” Semmens said,” And in fact, they are probably entitled to refunds if they want them.”

The case filed by the National Right-to-Work Foundation is in front of the NLRB. The board will either dismiss the case and move forward with the settlement or send it to the NLRB to be heard.

Semmens believes this case is as important to the process as it is to protect the rights of workers.

“For worker’s rights and also for the independence of the NLRB and the way the process is supposed to work,” Semmens said,” The board should look at all the briefs filed in the case already and we believe if they do that and look at them fairly they’ll rule in favor of Shelby Krocker.”

Staff attorneys for the National Right-to-Work Foundation hear about 200 similar cases each year. In some cases the only protection workers have is the free legal aid provided by the foundation.

“When unions use deceptive tactics like this, it shows although they claim often to speak for the workers,” Semmens said,” They’re often putting their own self-interest first, in this case finding, ahead of the rights of those they claim to represent.”