Company’s deceptive ‘job, bonus’ offer trying to keep warehouse workers on the job until they are fired in late July
Two charges have been filed against Schnucks Markets by Teamsters Local 688 seeking to protect the rights of 190 of their warehouse members scheduled to be fired at the end of July when Schnucks opens a new warehouse staffed by non-union workers earning half the Teamster’s pay.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charges accuse Schnucks with dealing directly with the involved workers instead of dealing with Local 688 as federal law requires; and illegally preventing the union’s picketing in front of the stores’ entrances, a right backed up by a ruling from County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.
The charges pending before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) include:
- RIGHT TO HANDBILL: Local 688 makes the point that Schnucks allows all kinds of groups – Girl Scouts, Salvation Army and many others – to stand in front of the stores soliciting money and signatures and handing out information. Not to allow the Teamsters to do the same thing is “discriminatory and unlawful,” and violates the National Labor Relations Act, their charge says.
The union’s right to educational handbilling directly in front of the stores is backed by a ruling from the county prosecuting attorney that clearly says handbilling in front of the store is permissible as long as the union has filed an NLRB charge over the issue, which they have done.
That handbilling in front of the stores’ entrances, the ruling also says, can continue unabated until the NLRB makes a decision one way or the other.
Notes an undated “Labor Guidelines” from the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch: “If the pickets produce the NLRB charge, the police should defer any action on a criminal trespassing complaint until the NLRB rules on the prickets’ right to enter and remain on private property.”
However, the union is not yet physically challenging Schnucks efforts to remove them from in front of their stores when police arrive, and they do every time Teamster handbillers show up.
“We want our members to be respectful to the law and the public, so when directed by police to move to the entrances of the shopping centers, we are doing so although we firmly believe we have the right to be at the doors,” said Local 688 Business Representative Mike Schlueter.
He presents the police with the McCulloch letter but it appears to be too confusing for the police as the store manager claims a trespass, so the union complies with the police requests to move their pickets.
“We want to avoid a confrontation and members potentially being arrested,” Schlueter added.
- UNDERCUTTING THE CONTRACT: Under the current union contract, if Schnucks subcontracts or moves its warehouse, the workers have the right to be reemployed with the contractor or at the new location. However, Schnucks has refused to acknowledge the workers’ reemployment rights with regard to the new warehouse. Instead, it began direct dealing with the members in an attempt to undermine the union;s grievance over this issue. and went directly to the union’s members in an attempt to trick them into agreeing to bypass this clause in the union contract.
The deception involves Schnucks making it appear that the company would offer the 190 other jobs and offering them a “buyout bonus” if they will stay on the job until the new warehouse is open.
Two clever “lawyer” wordings in this offer:
- First and foremost, the Schnucks proposal makes the job offer contingent on when and IF “positions are available throughout the company at that time.”
- Second, the workers would be eligible for a “retention bonus” ranging anywhere from three weeks pay or $250 to $500 depending on length of service at the time but they have to keep working until they are fired in late July.
The hooker: they have to agree to one or the other.
“Both are losers for our members,” says Mike Goebel, the union’s chief executive officer.
Where the member hurts himself, Goebel stressed, is that by signing the retention bonus agreement, they forgo all their rights to keep their jobs at the new warehouse, which is what the union is fighting for. “Once they sign the agreement, they no longer have any union protections.”
“If the workers sign this agreement, they will “be cutting themselves off at the knees,” added Teamster attorney Mike Evans of the Hartnett, Gladney & Hetterman law firm.
“As for our members being available for ‘other jobs’ good luck with that. We seriously doubt many, if any, will be there,” says Goebel, “They won’t want any union guys around that might impact the non-union workers stealing their jobs.”
Hearings on the charges have not yet been set.
“To my knowledge, no Local 688 workers have signed the deceptive agreement that will do them more harm than good,” Goebel said.