Testimony starts late at OPEIU hearing

Testimony got off to a late start Thursday at a federal agency hearing in Miami aimed at deciding who will cast ballots in a unionization effort at OPEIU, the Office and Professional Employees International Union.

The News Media Guild is seeking to have the National Labor Relations Board order an election so it can bargain for the field staff of the OPEIU, employees who negotiate organize and enforce collective bargaining agreements for tens of thousands of OPEIU union members across the country.

These representatives, like the members they work for, also want to be in a union. They selected the News Media Guild to represent them.

The employer contends that many of the workers the union seeks to organize are ineligible to vote in a federally supervised election, citing various legal exclusions.

The Guild, after it received a list of potential eligible voters from the employer for the first time Thursday, said several individuals named by the employer are either managers or do not perform the work of handling collective bargaining agreements, or are otherwise ineligible to vote.

In total, the status of 14 people is disputed.

In addition, the employer:

_ moved to dismiss the entire organizing effort on conflict of interest grounds, saying that because an OPEIU local union (not the OPEIU itself) represents some workers at the CWA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The matter was referred to the Regional Director of NLRB Region 12 in Tampa, Fla.

_ objected to live video testimony originating from other NLRB offices around the country. The hearing officer denied the objection.

_ moved to sequester witnesses at the hearing, which according to NLRB rules is supposed to be “non–adversarial.” The hearing officer denied the objection.

_ moved to strike the testimony of the first witness. The hearing officer denied the motion.

The hearing officer asked OPEIU management to present its first witness.

OPEIU said its first witness could not testify until Friday, even though it has known of the hearing since Sept. 12. The Guild, which had arranged for several witnesses to testify Thursday as requested by the hearing officer, then called its first witness late in the afternoon after various OPEIU objections were dealt with.

The witness testified she had been an OPEIU employee for decades, verified her pay stub, showing she was paid by OPEIU, and testified she was “insulted” by OPEIU’s questions, and did not manage or supervise other employees. OPEIU is seeking to deny her a ballot. The hearing resumes Friday. OPEIU President Mike Goodwin, who was subpoenaed to appear by the Guild, did not appear. OPEIU also failed to produce documents for more than a dozen employees it contends are in the proposed bargaining unit sought by the Guild.

Under NLRB procedure, the hearing officer’s report will be submitted to the regional director, who will decide on the details of the election.