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United Steelworkers union decertification vote ballots 'impounded' to investigate unfair labor practice charges

The press secretary for the National Labor Relations Board tells 12News it may be a few weeks before there are any results.

BEAUMONT, Texas — The United Steelworkers decertification vote results anticipated for Wednesday are now delayed while the unfair labor practice charges in the case are being investigated.

It may be a few weeks before there are any results, the press secretary for the National Labor Relations Board Kayla Blado told 12News. The NLRB decided to impound the decertification ballots, postponing the vote.

Members of the board said this decision was made so they could have more time to investigate claims of unfair labor practices.

“The labor board notified us this morning on the call that they're going to impound the ballots,” Bryan Gross, local union representative, said.

NLRB board members said there have been multiple allegations of unfair labor practices filed with the agency. Some of the allegations were made by the union against ExxonMobil and others are vice versa.

Gross said he feels Wednesday’s decision by the NLRB is good for the union. He said the decision means the board saw enough in their charges to merit looking further into them.

“They've looked at our evidence,” Gross said. “They've looked at the affidavits that we've done for them, and they at least believe there's value in at least looking into them further.”

Gross said the NLRB’s decision to postpone the decertification vote has to do with a claim made by the union that ExxonMobil interfered with the decertification petition. According to Gross, this is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

ExxonMobil officials disputed Gross claims saying in part, "Today the USW's action not only prevented your voice from being heard but also denied you an opportunity to end the lockout.”

Officials with Exxon said the company acted, "lawfully at all times," and that they are sure the charges will be dismissed.

Members of the union feel that Exxon’s actions have been unlawful, especially in regards to the decertification petition.

“The petition is not supposed to be shared around or passed around on company time,” Gross said. “Company equipment is not supposed to be used like email."

Despite some locked-out union members having to take up part- and full-time jobs, Gross still feels like the union has majority support.

“We feel like the majority still support us, support our cause, support what we're doing,” Gross said.

Gross said if you're struggling to follow the ExxonMobil lockout, you're not alone. For almost eight months members of the United States Steelworkers have been off the job.

Gross said the eight-month-long lockout is one of the longest that the Golden Triangle has seen.

“It’s time to end it, and let's get back to the table. Get people back to work,” Gross said. 

Negotiations with ExxonMobil have failed for months, and the two parties cannot agree on a new deal to get them back to work. 

In mid-November, "secret ballots" were sent out to USW workers. They were instructed to vote “yes” or “no” to keeping the union and mail the ballot back to the national labor board.

RELATED: 'Secret ballots' sent to United Steelworkers to vote on future of union at ExxonMobil

"We believe we have the majority numbers,” Gross said. “We believe it's going to be a split vote. It's probably going to be closer than we'd like it to be."

If a majority of the workers vote to decertify, the union would no longer represent the locked-out workers. But if the majority votes to keep the union, the union will remain and will continue representing the group.

"We still feel like we have the numbers and hopefully we have a good vote tomorrow and we can get back to the table," Gross said.

Another possible outcome? Gross said the NLRB could postpone the meeting for a number of reasons including the discovery of any errors on the ballots.

As union workers wait to learn the fate of the union, many are feeling frustrated wanting the oil giant to get back to the bargaining table.

"We are trying to protect jobs for the future, said locked-out USW member Johnnie Vaught. “This is about job security for those people who are there. It's about seniority. It's about trying to make things safer."

Gross said it is unclear how long it could be until the NLRB counts the decertification votes, but the union reached out to Exxon on Wednesday to resume contract talks.

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