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Investigation progressing in Woodman's union dispute

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JAMES P. LEUTE
August 29, 2008
— Charges and countercharges of unfair labor practices have kept a local union dispute simmering, but the National Labor Relations Board has made headway in trying to determine whether Woodman’s employees can determine the fate of their union.

Earlier this year, more than one-third of the 950 employees at Woodman’s stores in Janesville, Beloit and Madison signed a petition to decertify United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1473.


A few weeks later, more than 500 Woodman’s employees signed a second petition that called for Woodman’s to immediately pull its recognition of Local 1473 as the employees’ bargaining unit.


The case has generated weeks of testimony, thousands of pages of transcripts and hundreds of exhibits. It now rests with the NLRB, which eventually will decide whether an election should be held on the union’s future.


The NLRB is still investigating the allegations from both sides, which number in the hundreds.


In arguments to the NLRB, Local 1473 said that several people who signed the first petition were supervisors and therefore not eligible to vote in a decertification election.


Irv Gottschalk, regional director of the NLRB in Milwaukee, said the NLRB ruled in July that most of the employees Local 1473 identified as supervisors were not supervisors and therefore are eligible to vote in an election.


“We’re still investigating the charges of unfair labor practices coming from both sides,” Gottschalk said, hesitating to estimate the timetable for the dispute’s resolution. “Eventually, we will rule on the merit of all or part of the allegations.


“This is a big volume case.”


Union supporters have said the grocery chain’s management is behind the effort to bust up Local 1473’s representation of Woodman’s workers.


Opponents, however, have said the union is ineffective and is more interested in its self-preservation.


Woodman’s has 12 stores in Wisconsin and Illinois, half of which are represented by unions.



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