Sunday, March 9, 2014
Leaders of the the union that charged in May that a trailer manufacturing firm in Winslow had violated the rights of its employees to unionize, withdrew three of 12 charges it filed with the Federal Labor Relations Board.
Winslow-based Alcom fired five workers who were involved in an effort to form a union, which sparked charges that the company was engaged in illegal union-busting.
Company President Trapper Clark said in the days following the allegations that Alcom supports the rights of workers to unionize and that the workers were fired for personnel reasons he could not disclose.
The National Labor Relations Board has concluded its investigation and is trying to broker an agreement between workers, who wanted to join the Laborers International Union of North America, and the company.
Representatives from both sides said the agreement could come soon.
After the federal investigation concluded, Scott Gustafson, director of the Laborers New England Region Organizing Fund, which filed the charges on May 24, withdrew a charge that Alcom executives spied on union gatherings of its employees during a 10-day period in early May.
The union also withdrew charges that Alcom “was polling employees about union support through a petition being circulated within the workplace,” and that one of the workers had been illegally fired because of his union activities.
The three charges were withdrawn, Gustafson said, based on other pending issues related to the case.
Gustafson said the remaining nine charges, which include allegations that the other four employees were terminated illegally, are the basis of the negotiations.
“We’re listening to what the workers’ interests are and what they’d like to be the outcome,” Gustafson said. “They’re the ones who were aggrieved in this process.”
Gustafson said he was limited in what he could say because the resolution process is still unfolding.
“It’s up to Alcom to take what we’ve asked for on behalf of the aggrieved workers and make a proposal back,” he said.
If the sides can’t come to a speedy agreement, he said, the process could take months to unfold.
Alcom’s attorney, Robert Kline of Portland, said it is noteworthy that the remaining open charges are being dealt with informally.
“Charges deemed by the board to be meritorious, if not informally resolved, would normally proceed to a complaint and hearing,” Kline said. “That is not expected to occur.”
Kline said the details of an agreement are not likely to be made public, but that a typical resolution might involve posting notices throughout the workplace that reinforce worker knowledge of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
Under that federal law, workers for any employer have a right to join labor organizations, bargain collectively and engage in other concerted activities.
Under the law, employers can’t interfere with, restrain or coerce employees who are exercising those rights. They are also prohibited from discriminating against workers or retaliating against them for the purpose of discouraging union membership.
Other open cases before the board include a charge that an Alcom executive questioned an employee’s participation in concerted activity via text messages.
While the spying charge has been withdrawn, another active charge claims that an Alcom executive “gave the impression of spying” on workers during union activities.
A thirteenth charge against Alcom was closed the day after it was filed, as it duplicated one of the existing charges.
Shortly after filing the charges, Maine’s AFL-CIO organized an email campaign encouraging website visitors to send emails to Clark and three other company email accounts with a letter titled “stop breaking the law and reinstate fired workers today.”
Clark said the company had been inundated with hundreds of emails as a result of the action.
Gregory King, director of public affairs for the National Labor Relations Board, declined to comment on the charges because, he said, there are ongoing related cases.
Matt Schlobohm of the AFL-CIO referred questions about the case to Devin Mayo of the Laborers Union, but Mayo did not return a call seeking comment.
Alcom was founded in 2006 with 20 employees in Waterville, and its workforce has grown to 185 in the state, making it the 23rd-largest employer in Kennebec County, according to the Maine Department of Labor.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287