Q & A on NLRB charge

Facts on NLRB charge filed against the Times Union

Q: What happened?

A: The National Labor Relations Board determined, after an investigation, that the Times Union broke the law when it walked employees out shortly after negotiations began over the criteria for layoffs.

Q: Publisher George Hearst told the Capital District Business Review “the panel merely determined that a hearing should be held to investigate the matter further.” Is this true?

A: No. The NLRB determined that the law was broken and filed a charge. The case will be prosecuted by counsel from the NLRB. This is the legal equivalent of an indictment in a criminal case: The party is not found guilty, but sufficient evidence has been found to hold a trial. Metaphorically speaking, this would be like a bank robber who is on trial saying “the police are merely continuing their investigation.” It is much more serious than the publisher’s comment would lead you to believe.

Q: Mr. Hearst told the Daily Gazette that if he lost, he’d merely bring the same people back to work and lay them off again. What’s the union response?

A: As I told the Gazette, it is stunning to hear that if the Times Union is found guilty of breaking the law, it would break the law again. A newspaper should hold itself to a much higher standard.

Q: The Company says this case will drag on for months, possibly years. Is that true?

A: Yes, if the Times Union chooses to drag it out. If convicted, the Times Union could appeal to the NLRB in Washington, D.C. If the conviction is upheld, the TU could then appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. All that time, however, the back pay owed to the workers would continue to accrue.

Q: I’m glad the layoffs are over. Why not just let this go?

A: We have a moral and legal obligation to represent all our members. We cannot tell our laid-off colleagues: “We know the Times Union broke the law, but we’re going to let them away with it.” Also, there is no guarantee layoffs won’t occur again in the future, and the Company cannot legally pick and choose whomever it wants to lay off without negotiation so this does affect all employees now and in the future. And finally, and this is a major reason for the NLRB to pursue this case, allowing the Times Union to break the law this way would set a precedent for other companies to walk out workers too rather than negotiate criteria in good faith.

Q: The publisher says the company presented criteria in the layoffs, and the union never did. Is that true?

A: No, it is not. We presented proposals on Aug. 19 and on Sept. 10. In fact, the final words spoken at the bargaining table prior to the company declaring impasse in negotiations over layoffs were these by Mark Batten, a Boston area lawyer hired to represent the TU: “I will have to discuss this (Guild proposal) over lunch break to see if there is a counterproposal possible.” Rather than reply to our proposal, the Company declared an impasse.

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