Local 483 members are to be commended for their patience throughout this extremely long and unfair procedure.
After a four-year delay, NLRB sends case to resolution process
IN 2002, LOCAL 483 (Alton, Ill.) filed unfair labor practice charges against Joy Technologies Inc., d/b/a Joy Mining Machinery, when the company refused to bargain in good faith, imposed a mandatory overtime policy without notifying or bargaining to impasse with the union, and would not let employees return to work following a ULP strike as mandated by law. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) David L. Evans ruled in the union’s favor, but the company refused to make payment and appealed the case to the National Labor Relations Board. The case has been there ever since. That is until late 2006, when the NLRB referred the case to its Pilot Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.
The case was assigned to ALJ William Cates. Cates met with counsel and bargaining committees of both company and union until an agreement could be reached. Eligible members ratified an agreement with the company in August. On Sept. 14, 2006, the NLRB approved a settlement in the amount of $1.02 million — a lot of money, but a far cry from the original estimate of nearly $4 million.
“Although the settlement was not the full amount of liability, there were many factors the members had to consider,” reports Research Director Jim Pressley. “The company has since combined two locations, built a new plant in Kentucky, and closed the plant in Illinois. We also had to consider the make-up of the NLRB itself [whether or not the current board has a fair member representation for both management and union] and the fact the board had many options — only one of which was better than the settlement approved. This case had been before the board about four years. There was no end in sight, and it was almost certain the company would appeal any NLRB decision to the courts.”
Local 483 President Bill Staggs said the company informed him in 2005 that the plant would be closed in January 2006. Most of the members have since found other work, some in other shops, others as field construction Boilermakers. But there are still too many who are out of work. Staggs says the fate of this plant was pretty well sealed in 2001, when workers refused to work under a mandatory overtime policy the company instituted without consulting with or negotiating with the union.
“I think it comes down to this: the company did not like the union; they did not like being told what to do; and they found out they could do business cheaper in Kentucky,” Staggs said.
Staggs continued: “Now you can quote me on this. When the company vice president told me they were closing the plant, he flat out stated: ‘If you lose a thumb in Illinois, we have to pay you; in Kentucky, you go back to work.’ This really puts into perspective how this company feels about its employees.”
The decision to ratify the 2006 settlement agreement did bring some closure for the members of Local 483. The agreement was timely, due to the plant shut-down, and Pressley says there is absolutely no question that the monetary amount was more than the company ever intended to pay the employees.
“Local 483 members are to be commended for their patience throughout this extremely long and unfair procedure,“ Staggs said. “They exercised a lot of solidarity through the extended negotiations for a labor agreement, board charges, plant closure, and now this settlement procedure. There was definitely solidarity and discipline throughout the entire process.”
The settlement will be divided among 140 eligible employees and apportioned individually in two or three payments as follows: 1. One hundred percent of the employee’s medical and insurance expenses up to the total of the employee allocation; 2. Gross back wages equal to the ratio of the remaining employee allocation; and 3. Interest in the amount of what remains of the employee allocation after subtracting the amounts calculated in steps 1 and 2.
In addition to the monetary agreement, the company agreed to offer full reinstatement to employees who participated in the 2001 ULP strike, to bargain in good faith any future collective bargaining agreements, to not institute another mandatory overtime policy without union agreement, and to remove any disciplinary records from members who had refused to work the overtime. These additional “concessions” will obviously have no benefit for the former employees, however, since the company moved the plant operations to another state.
Joy Technologies manufactures deep mining equipment, machines that bore into coal seams or slice coal from the wall of a seam. Local 483 members at the company’s Mount Vernon plant repaired these machines, which weighed up to 100 tons and cost millions of dollars.
The Mount Vernon facility also included Joy’s “Brake and Clutch Center of Excellence,” where brakes and clutches for these machines were repaired. The Boilermakers had represented workers there since 1978.