NLRB Plans To Issue Complaint Against CUNA Mutual

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The National Labor Relations Board has notified both CUNA Mutual Group and its employees' union, the Local 39 of the Office and Professional Employees Union, it is preparing to issue a complaint against CUNA Mutual Group for unfair labor practices.

Those practices include efforts to aid an attempt to decertify of the company's union and to separate it into different bargaining units.

The charges, which would have to be adjudicated by the National Labor Relations Authority, allege that CUNA Mutual engaged in a number of anti-labor activities, including threatening employees for speaking on behalf of the union, bypassing the union to deal directly with employees on labor negotiations, and aided the ongoing efforts to separate white collar workers from the main bargaining unit.

The NLRB found that CUNA Mutual allowed, and might have even encouraged, employees seeking to create a separate bargaining unit within the union to organize, using company facilities and communicating over the company's e-mail system. The e-mails have been used to organize disgruntled white collar workers who are attempting the rare separation of the collective bargaining unit and have petitioned the NLRB to hold a union decertification vote to facilitate creation of the separate units. Among the evidence submitted to the NLRB was e-mails from managers encouraging other managers to attend an anti-union rally held on company grounds last spring.

"There is evidence that the company is, in fact, illegally promoting this decertification effort," said Kurt Kobelt, an attorney representing the union. Kobelt represented the union in 2002 in a separate action when CUNA Credit Union employees voted to have it decertified.

But Kobelt said he hopes the charges will help force CUNA Mutual back to the bargaining table to negotiate a new labor agreement. "If the company wants to fight it out, we can fight it out," said Kobelt. "But we hope this will get the company to go back and reassess their bargaining tactics."

Sydney Lindner, a spokesperson for CUNA Mutual, said that the union's complaints dealt with a large number of issues, many that were rejected by the NLRB. Others, she said, focused on events that occurred last spring and have been resolved.

"The matters discussed under investigation by the NLRB focused almost entirely on events that occurred between March and July," said Lindner in an e-mail response to questions. "The company then took significant action, without any direction from the NLRB, to reaffirm employee rights protected under federal law."

The two sides have been negotiating on a new union contract for almost a year. The last contract, a three-year pact, expired on March 31. Negotiations have grown increasingly bitter, with the union staging a "corporate campaign" to notify CUNA Mutual customers of what is alleges are the company's bad-faith bargaining tactics. Union members recently picketed the homes and offices of several CUNA Mutual board members.

There are no negotiations currently scheduled between the two sides, according to Kobelt.

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