More charges exchanged in Woodman’s union dispute

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May 2, 2008
— Charges and countercharges continue in the case of more than 900 Woodman’s employees who either do or do not want continued union representation.

Woodman’s filed an unfair labor practice charge Tuesday alleging that United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1473 has engaged in objectionable conduct by granting financial benefits to its members at two Woodman’s stores in Madison and one each in Janesville and Beloit.

The union countered Wednesday with a charge that in early April Woodman’s refused to bargain a new contract in good faith and threatened to withdraw recognition of the union in retaliation for employees’ union activities.

The union’s charge also alleges that Woodman’s followed through on the latter and withdrew its official recognition of the union on Wednesday.

Mark Sweet, the attorney representing UFCW Local 1473, has asked the National Labor Relations Board to petition a federal district court for an injunction to temporarily prevent unfair labor practices by Woodman’s and restore union recognition while the board investigates the case.

Fred Grubb, a consultant hired by Woodman’s to represent it before the board, said Woodman’s received a petition asking the grocer to pull its recognition of UFCW as the employees’ bargaining unit. Grubb said that because the petition was signed by more than half of the 950 employees, the National Labor Relations Act requires that the employer drop its recognition of the union.

This week’s exchange of unfair labor practices is not the first in the dispute, which includes weeks of testimony before the National Labor Relations Board that produced 3,400 pages of transcripts and hundreds of exhibits.

The dispute started earlier this year when an employee at a Woodman’s store in Madison circulated a petition to decertify Local 1473 as the bargaining unit for the employees. In a typical case, the board would determine whether or not the petition was valid and either approve or disallow an election on the union’s future.

But this case has been far from typical, and the board will investigate the latest claims and determine whether the case should move into the courts.

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