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Board finds Chicago bus operator illegally fired employees and committed other violations during union organizing campaign

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The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that Latino Express Inc., a Chicago-area bus company, violated federal labor law by firing two employees and committing a host of other unfair labor practices during a union organizing campaign.

The Board decision largely affirmed an earlier ruling by Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas, who found that, in addition to the illegal firings, the company unlawfully ordered employees to refrain from discussing wages and working conditions with each other,  promised benefits to discourage union organizing, created the impression that employee union activity was being watched, and interrogated and threatened employees regarding their union activities. The Board also found that the company violated the Act by granting a wage increase to the employees after learning of the organizing drive. The union later prevailed in a secret ballot election. 

(In the same decision, the Board severed two remedial issues and invited briefs on questions of tax collection and Social Security payments.)

Charges were filed by the fired drivers and Teamsters Local 777 at the NLRB Regional Office in Chicago, which investigated and issued a complaint alleging the violations. While the case was pending before the Board, attorneys in the Region won a temporary injunction in federal district court and the company was ordered to, among other things, offer reinstatement to the two fired drivers and post a copy of the court’s order in both Spanish and English at its facility.  

The company failed to comply with the district court’s order and, after a day-long evidentiary hearing, was found in contempt on July 2, 2012.  The Court then issued an order requiring, among other things, new offers of reinstatement, backpay to the employees starting on April 30, payment of agency attorney’s fees and costs, and fines against the company and the owner if the company fails to comply with the contempt order. 

On July 31, 2012, the Chicago Region issued a new complaint alleging that Latino Express bargained in bad faith for a first contract with Teamsters Local 777 over a 10-month period beginning in June 2011.  The complaint also alleges that, in April 2012, the company unilaterally changed employees’ working conditions by instituting a “Driver’s Accountable Act,” and later unlawfully withdrew recognition from the union as the bargaining representative of the company’s bus drivers.  That complaint currently is scheduled for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge in Chicago in September 2012. 

NLRB attorney Jeanette Schrand litigated the cases and contempt actions, and Deputy Regional Attorney Paul Hitterman supervised.

 

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