Shutdown delays NLRB hearing, CWA president subpoened

The shutdown of the federal government forced at least a two-week delay for a new group of workers seeking to bargain a contract with the Office and Professional Employees International Union.

The National Labor Relations Board adjourned a union representation hearing in Miami until Oct. 15. The hearing is aimed at determining which employees will vote in a federally supervised election to determine if the OPEIU field and organizing staff can vote to be represented by the News Media Guild can they can bargain a contract with the OPEIU.

The workers are seeking collective bargaining rights, just as the thousands of OPEIU members they work for have. Many workers employed by labor organizations are themselves covered by union contracts.

But OPEIU is resisting the organizing drive. Last week, it filed a motion to dismiss the request for an election. OPEIU lawyers argue that the Guild is unfit to represent OPEIU employees because some clerical employees of the Guild’s parent union, The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, are represented by the OPEIU’s Washington, D.C.,  local.

A former NMG president, Tony Winton, testified last week that the News Media Guild enjoys a high degree of autonomy from its parent unions.

Pressing its claim, OPEIU on Monday served a subpoena on Larry Cohen, the president of the CWA to testify. OPEIU management is insisting that Cohen disclose any CWA plans to organize any employees at any employers who have collective bargaining agreements with the OPEIU or any of its Local Unions.

For example, Cohen would have to disclose the name of a newspaper CWA is thinking of organizing if some of its clerical staff is now represented by OPEIU, although it is common knowledge that many employers have multiple unions to deal with.

OPEIU management earlier said at the hearing that it could not disclose who it was organizing because it is confidential information, to which NMG agreed.

The Guild amended its petition to include two employees who have the title of “assistant to the president” after reviewing records and testimony in the case, believing those two employees are ones who should cast ballots.

In testimony that took place before the government shutdown, an OPEIU manager acknowledged errors in his earlier testimony about benefit levels for some newly hired workers. Kevin Kistler, the supervisor of the collective bargaining field staff, said some of the new workers do not get equivalent benefits, a factor that may be relevant in defining the bargaining unit and which workers will get ballots.

He also acknowledged that some of the individuals that OPEIU says are organizers and representatives do little or no work negotiating or administering labor contracts or organizing for collective bargaining rights. The employer is insisting that these workers should be in the bargaining unit.

Meanwhile, an employee testified that Kistler was incorrect in testifying that she gave legal advice to the OPEIU as part of her job. The employer contends that because the employee has a law degree, the worker cannot be part of the bargaining unit. The employee testified she never gave legal advice or represented OPEIU and that she doesn’t even hold a license to practice law in the state where she works.

Although the hearing is set to resume Oct. 15, that date is not certain because of the government shutdown. The NLRB, which has offices all over the country, only has 11 employees working during the shutdown