County union alleges intimidation
The union representing hundreds of Lane County employees who went on strike last fall says county officials pressured and intimidated workers in an effort to prevent them from striking and to weaken the union’s influence.
An unfair labor practice complaint filed this month against Lane County by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2831 alleges that county managers and supervisors violated state collective bargaining laws multiple times before and during the weeklong strike.
The complaint, filed with the Oregon Employment Relations Board, alleges violations of five county employees’ rights under state collective bargaining laws related to the strike.
A Lane County spokeswoman declined to comment on the complaint, citing the possibility of legal action.
In one case alleged by AFSCME, an employee placed on paid administrative leave before the strike was asked whether they supported the strike and allegedly was told they would stop being paid if they supported it.
Two probationary employees were incorrectly told they could not join the strike once their probationary periods ended, AFSCME alleged.
One striking employee who faced a small-claims lawsuit related to his work for the county was told the county would withdraw its defense and leave him to pay any damages if he stayed off the job, AFSCME alleged.
And an AFSCME-represented nurse who previously had scheduled a gallbladder surgery for a day in the week of the strike was told to cancel her surgery because of the strike, the union alleged.
“The natural and probable effect of the county’s conduct, viewed under the totality of the circumstances, would tend to discourage employees from supporting the union,” AFSCME’s complaint states. “By retaliating or threatening to retaliate against members for engaging in protected activity — including the right to go on strike — and by actively attempting to create divides between the union and its membership ... the county dominated and interfered with the existence and administration of AFSCME.”
Filing unfair labor practice complaints is relatively common. The Employment Relations Board typically receives several dozen allegations each year of unfair practices filed by public employee unions against local governments, or the other way around.
A three-member panel hears complaints and determines what action to take, if any.
Lane County filed an unfair labor practice complaint against AFSCME Local 2831 before the start of the strike, accusing the union of not working in good faith to reach a contract agreement. That case is scheduled for a hearing this week.
More than 500 AFSCME-represented Lane County government employees went on strike in October over wage and health insurance terms proposed in a new three-year contract. The union sought far higher raises than the county offered in negotiations that began early last year.
The strike ended a week after it began on terms largely favorable to the county, though AFSCME secured some raises for lower-wage workers and the right to negotiate raises for some employees midcontract.