Yampa Valley Electrical Association employees, who have been embroiled in labor disputes for months, have voted for an open shop.
The vote, conducted by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment was 21-17.
The open shop means YVEA employees are no longer required to join the union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 111, but can make the decision individually. If they don't join, they are not required to pay union dues.
As of Monday, no appeal of the election results had been filed.
"Evidently, the election will stand as is," said YVEA lineman Burt Clements, who has been a vocal opponent of the union. Clements said he was pleased with the vote, which was conducted last Friday.
The union remains the certified bargaining agent for YVEA, meaning employees must continue to file requests for wages and working conditions to the union.
But President and General Manager of YVEA Larry Covillo said he expects that the National Labor Relations Board will schedule a certification election within the next 30 days.
"If the union is decertified, it will no longer be the bargaining agent," he said. "Employees will be able to make requests to a committee, rather than to an outside agent (the union)."
Clements said he expects the union will be decertified "especially if the vote goes like the last election did."
"I would think that people have seen the light of what the union thinks it can do, versus what it really can do," he said referring to the open-shop vote.
"One of the pro-union voters from that election is no longer with us. But we do have five or so temps, and we don't know which way they will swing."
Covillo would not predict the outcome of a certification election. "We're just glad so much of this is over now," he said.
On this point, he and Clements agree.
"Everyone in Craig is relieved," Clements said. "It went the way we all knew it was going to go. It just took a little while."
Union representatives were not available for comment.
The NLRB sought to help resolve differences between the YVEA employees and Local 111.
In a union complaint that several employees were withholding their monthly union fees, the NLRB found that the "security clause" in the contract between YVEA and the union was not enforceable.
The security clause states YVEA workers can decide whether or not to join the union, but if a worker chooses not to join, he still has to pay 90 percent of union dues.
"It used to be a condition of employment that employees pay the dues or fees," Covillo said. "But our new contract doesn't require that."
During negotiations in November 1998, the language of the union contract with YVEA was changed, making payment of union dues no longer a condition of employment. What was not clear in the language was whether or not employees who refused to pay dues could lose their jobs. When Covillo refused to fire employees who were not paying their fees, the union filed charges against YVEA.
"Now the NLRB has said the people don't have to pay their dues and fees," Covillo said. "With that said, the union withdrew its five charges against us."
YVEA was charged with not bargaining in good faith, with not treating pro-union people the same as "anti-union" people, and with three charges related to YVEA not firing employees who refused to pay their dues and failing to enforce the union contract.
YVEA had filed a counter-charge alleging that the union was intimidating employees for exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
Both organizations dropped their charges before a first hearing was scheduled for the Federal District Court.
"The NLRB held up our charge," Covillo said.
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