National labor board issues complaint against Nippon mill

PORT ANGELES — The National Labor Relations Board issued an eight-part complaint last week against Nippon Paper Industries USA alleging the company committed eight unfair labor practices.

Some of those practices allegedly occurred around March 20-25, when workers represented by the Western Association of Paper Workers Local 155 went on strike.

They walked off the job two days after the company unilaterally imposed a contract that cut hourly wages by $3 an hour.

The complaint was issued Wednesday, the same day union-represented workers approved a new six-year contract with Nippon that restores the $3 an hour to workers’ paychecks and retroactively pays the lost wages.

The contract also freezes workers’ pay until at least 2016 and cuts post-retirement benefits.

The union filed two dozen unfair labor practice complaints before and after the strike, many of which were resolved, union Organizing Coordinator Paul Cloer said Friday.

For example, the union withdrew a charge against Nippon of failure to bargain in good faith because of the contract settlement, he said.

But eight charges remain that were consolidated into the complaint that was issued Wednesday.

“We have found merit to those allegations that are in the complaint,” Ron Hooks, director of the NLRB’s Seattle regional office, said last week.

Mill Manager Harold Norlund would not comment on the complaint, which the Japanese-owned company must answer by Aug. 13.

“We will review the information provided and respond as required,” Norlund said.

Hearing scheduled

If the complaint is not resolved, a hearing open to the public will be held before an administrative law judge at 9 a.m. Dec. 3 at the Jackson Federal Building, 915 Second Ave. in Seattle.

Here are the allegations contained in the complaint:

■ On or about March 14, new work rules were implemented that prohibited employees from using company equipment for loading their personal tools.

They also were prohibited from driving their vehicles on Nippon property to load and remove those tools.

■ During March, a new work rule refused vacation pay for pre-approved vacations to employees while they were on strike.

■ During March, Nippon “granted preference” to employees who did not strike or who abandoned the job action, by refusing vacation pay to striking employees.

That conduct “is inherently destructive of the rights guaranteed employees by . . . the [National Labor Relations Act],” the complaint stated.

■ On or about March 26, and in or about April 2013, a company employee “interrogated [company] employees about their union activities and sympathies and the union activities and sympathies of other employees.”

■ According to the complaint, “on or about March 28, 2013, [Nippon], by an unnamed agent whose identity is better known to [Nippon], at or about its facility by observing from within parked vans, engaged in surveillance of employees engaged in union activities.”

■ On or about April 5, a new work rule was implemented requiring employees to wear safety glasses at all times.

■ On or about April 25, a previously unenforced work rule was put into effect regarding use of cellphones and ear protection.

■ In or about April, the company stopped deducting and remitting union fees and dues.

The complaint includes a proposals to remedy the complaint.

“In general, if there is any money lost that was lost because of the vacation issue, then the employer would be required to reimburse employees for any lost monetary benefit,” Hooks said.

“With regard to the non-monetary issues, such as the implementation of new rules, the employer would be required to rescind those rules upon request by the union.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected]

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