Woodworking employees win two-year legal battle to oust union officials
Posted by Larry Adams
Patella-Logo-2-145.jpeg

Patella Woodworking was the site for a two-year-long battle to oust the carpenters union from the wood shop.

Photo By Patella Woodworking

PASSAIC, N.J. — Following the third attempt by employees of Passaic-based woodworking firm Patella to obtain a vote to remove them, Carpenters Local 252 union officials have "backed down and abandoned the facility," according to a statement from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

The union’s disclaimer of interest, received last week by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 22, caps off a years-long legal battle between Patella employees and carpenters union officials. The workers ousted the union with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Interior of the Patella wood shop from WoodworkingNetwork archives.
Interior of the Patella wood shop from WoodworkingNetwork archives.

 

 

 

Patella employee Steve Urso led the effort to vote out the union, which began in July 2021 with the filing of a petition requesting an NLRB-administered vote to decertify the carpenters union. According to the right-to-work group, union officials used unverified allegations of employer misconduct, also known as “blocking charges,” to derail attempts by Urso and his colleagues to oust the union. Urso filed the most recent decertification petition near the end of August 2023, and the union officials moved to leave the facility.

Because New Jersey lacks right-to-work protections for its private sector workers, carpenters union officials had the power to force Urso and his coworkers to pay at least some union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs. In contrast, in states with right-to-work laws, union bosses cannot enter agreements with employers that force employees to contribute a portion of their paychecks to the union to get or keep a job.

“Carpenters union bosses completely ignored our wishes for years, and apparently thought violating our rights and continuing to collect dues was better than simply letting us vote on whether we thought they deserved to stay,” Urso said in the statement. “It’s extremely unfair that Carpenters (union) officials were able to manipulate NLRB rules and processes for as long as they did to keep us trapped under union ‘representation’ that we opposed, but we didn’t give up and we’re glad we’re finally out.”

Urso submitted the first employee-backed decertification petition in July 2021, and an election did occur, but the ballots were never tallied after carpenters union officials filed “blocking charges” against the employer. Carpenters union leaders stopped a vote from occurring at all after Urso’s second attempt, again using “blocking charges.” Patella management settled the charges in February, but afterward carpenters union officials did not request any bargaining sessions with the employer. 

The carpenters union’s disclaimer of interest followed Urso’s third petition. Now that the NLRB has certified the disclaimer, Urso and his colleagues are finally free of the unwanted union.

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About the author
Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).