Monday, March 30, 2009

NLRB issues preliminary ruling on charges

Officials at the regional National Labor Relations Board have filed a Motion for Default Judgment against the Press-Telegram over our charges that the newspaper violated federal labor laws in March 2008 by moving P-T Guild members to the non-union Daily Breeze and laying off others.

In filing the motion, the Region 21 counsel calls for the NLRB to find in favor of the Guild on all counts.

The counsel said in the motion that because the P-T did not "file an answer within the time and in the manner prescribed by the [National Labor Relations] Board's Rules and Regulations, all allegations in the complaint shall be deemed to be true and have been so found by the Board." 

If the Region 21 motion goes forward, the decision includes a list of possible remedies, including (but not limited to) back pay and benefits, plus interest, for the employees laid off by the company. Transferred employees could receive compensation for any wages and/or other benefits lost to them as a result of their transfer.

Responding to the Board's decision, the company filed a request to extend the deadline. According to the company's request, their failure to respond was the Guild's fault, and the company should not suffer any consequences for ignoring the numerous notices and letters issued by the board over the last several months.

In January of this year, the P-T received an order that consolidated the Guild’s cases and a copy of the consolidated complaint along with the hearing date notice. Then in February the NLRB sent yet another copy of the complaint to the P-T. When the company continued to ignore NLRB requests, the board informed the P-T on Feb. 24 that "it had 7 days to file an answer, and failure to do so would result in a filing for default judgment."

The P-T repeatedly failed to answer the "consolidated complaints" as required by the NLRB’s Rules and Regulations, even when notified of the legal necessity for filing a timely answer. (The company was served notice of the Guild's first NLRB charges in August 2008 and again in September 2008. It also received copies of amended charges, first in October of last year and then again in November.)

On March 26, the company filed a request for a deadline extension. In the filing, the company argues to the NLRB that both parties had reached an "agreement in principle" on all charges and that is why, it alleges, it did not respond to the NLRB complaints. (Late February was the final deadline for the company to respond however, so the company would have already received the notice of an imminent decision by the Board.)

P-T management and Guild officials had a brief conversation earlier this year in which they discussed that all affected persons should be "made whole" - but details had not been worked out. The Guild conducted a survey of the workers impacted by the March 2008 layoffs and transfers to help it determine what a reasonable settlement should look like.

The Guild has not received a written settlement offer from the P-T.

The five-member panel at the NLRB in Washington, D.C. will now have to vote on the Region 21 motion, however the board currently has only two sitting members, one a recent Obama Administration appointee and the other a Republican holdover from the previous administration. This fails to meet the board's required three-member quorum to hold a vote. Like many federal boards, the NLRB panel is required to be made of no more than three members of the majority party. Due to the quorum rule, a vote on the Region 21 motion will have to wait until President Obama appoints at least one more member.

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