On March 28, 1988, NAGE Local R14-146 was certified as the exclusive representative of a unit of health care employees at the U.S. Public Health Service, Indian Health Service Hospital, Shiprock, New Mexico, including employees who work at the Teecnospos Clinic in Arizona. There are approximately 332 members in the unit.  On May 21, 1997, a notice to all Local R14-146 members was posted throughout the Northern Navajo Medical Health Center (Health Center) advising them of a special meeting. The notice stated that the purpose of the special meeting was to discuss and vote on changing the Local’s affiliation. Thereafter, the special meeting was held and the members who were in attendance voted unanimously (23-0) to change the unit’s affiliation from Local R14-146 to LIUNA. A petition to effect the change in certification from Local R14-146 to LIUNA was filed by its Chief Steward. Can the votes of just 23 people move a local from one union to another?

The FLRA held that it could under its precedent.  In this case it found that the NAGE local met all the regulatory requirements to do this, namely,

  1. notices of a special meeting were posted on bulletin boards throughout the Health Center and stated that all unit members were invited to an important meeting for the sole purpose of discussing and voting on a proposal to change the Local’s affiliation;
  2. the ballot clearly set forth the choices inherent in the proposed change in affiliation and did so in accurate and neutral language; adequate opportunity for presentation and discussion of the agenda was provided;
  3. the secrecy of the ballots was maintained at all times;
  4. and the meeting was held at a place and time convenient to the members.

The Authority also considered it significant that the change of national unions—

  1. would not affect the continuity of representation because the Local’s officers, Constitution, autonomy and day-to-day operations would remain unchanged and the collective bargaining agreement would remain in effect, and
  2. that the Activity had indicated its willingness to recognize and deal with the union that unit members selected.

Changing a local’s affiliation from one national union to another or even declaring full independence from a national union is not common.  If the local is part of a national consolidated unit it is actually self-defeating because the national union holds the certificate of recognition, not the local. But it is an important part of the checks-and-balance process under the statute. If your local is interested, these facts came from HHS, Shiprock, NM and NAGE and LIUNA, 46 FLRA 76 (1992). Start your research there.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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