BEAUMONT, Texas — An individual has requested a vote to decertify the United Steelworkers union at ExxonMobil just over five months after workers were locked out by the company.
The union has been notified that an individual has gotten enough signatures to request a decertification vote from the National Labor Relations Board according to United Steelworkers Local 13-243 representative Bryan Gross.
Union members can request an election to vote out or "decertify" their union or replace it with another union according to the NLRB's website.
At least 30% of the union members, or 195 of the 650 members, must sign a card or petition requesting the decertification election be held by the NLRB.
"We were given notice by the individual that was pushing the 'de-cert' vote to decertify the union, he got enough signatures to send it to the labor board and ask them for a 'de-cert' vote," Gross told 12News on Wednesday.
A Facebook user identified only as "Decertify Bmrf" posted Monday in a Facebook group called "Decertify BMRF 2021" that they had enough signatures and had filed a petition for the election with the NLRB.
Gross declined to identify who the individual was saying he did not want to give them recognition.
The NLRB confirmed to 12News that the petition was received on Monday.
If the election is held and the majority of the votes cast are not in favor of union representation then the union will be "decertified" according to the NLRB.
"We haven't received anything from the labor board yet," Gross said Wednesday.
Gross went on to say that the union had issues with how the signatures were collected saying some may have been collected before the lockout started. He told 12News the company was not supposed to be involved with collecting signatures and that they are not supposed to be collected on company time.
He said these locked-out ExxonMobil workers who have signed the petition don't feel like the union has done enough in contract negotiations with the company.
12News is working to confirm who started the petition. Gross said the person is not a union member. He also said the local union continues to work with ExxonMobil to reach a new, fair contract.
"They think we should've voted on the proposal that the company has offered, the previous proposal," Gross said.
But, he said this new decertification petition might get in the way of their goal.
"It just adds some burden on the process because now instead of, you know, trying to concentrate and really work through this proposal, now everybody's focused on this decert," Gross said.
The NLRB will have to determine if the petition is "legal" and it could take some time according to Gross.
He said he does not expect a vote anytime soon pointing out that a similar request in Baytown did not result in a vote until five or six months later.
Contract negotiations started on January 11, 2021. On April 23, ExxonMobil gave written notice of their intentions to lock out workers starting May 1, unless the union accepted a proposal that included major changes impacting members' safety, security and seniority.
The union's 650 members and ExxonMobil were unable to reach an agreement, and the lockout was initiated on May 1.
The company and the union last met just over a week ago on September 27, 2001, in what was their 50th meeting.
So how did these locked-out workers get to this point? Have a union, but don't want one anymore?
Here's what must happen. According to NLRB, at least 30% of your coworkers must sign cards or a petition asking the NLRB to conduct an election.
ExxonMobil has 650 members, so 195 signatures must be collected. From there, the NLRB will look over the petition and determine if a decertification election can move forward.
If the answer is yes, an election would be held, and the 650 Exxon Mobil union members would vote yes or no to staying in the union.
If the majority says they no longer want to be in the union, the union would become decertified.
Local attorney David Starnes said he guesses the decertification won't pass, but if it does this could leave many of these locked out ExxonMobil workers in a tough spot without the union's protection.
"There's going to be a lot of the people that are not going to be re-hired by Exxon and brought back because they're going to be able to achieve what is one of Exxon's number one goals and that is to reduce their force," Starnes said.
ExxonMobil released the following statement to 12News on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021
As many of you may be aware, a sufficient number of represented employees in the Refinery and Blending & Packaging Plant have indicated that they no longer wish to be represented by the United Steel Workers (USW) Local 13-243. They have done so through signing and submitting a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The process, known as decertification, involves an election where represented employees will have an opportunity to decide whether they still want to be represented by the USW. The Company was formally notified by the NLRB of the filing of this petition on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.
The Company respects employee choice and believes in the value of a direct relationship between the Company and employees, without a third party union.
At some point in the near future, we anticipate the NLRB will schedule and oversee a vote for employees to exercise their legally-protected right to choose whether they wish to be represented by the USW or not. Neither the Company nor the union will know how you vote. It will be a secret ballot vote either in person or by mail.
This process presents a significant opportunity for employees to express their right to determine your future. We promise to provide accurate information to help you make an informed decision. The Company is committed to answering any questions you have. You may contact Human Resources and/or submit questions at embeaumont.com through the ‘EMCO Resource Center.’ Additional information will be provided as this process continues.
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This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.