Saturday, 18 May 2024

HVLA union workers remain locked out; officials investigate union claims

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – A lockout of union employees at the Hidden Valley Lake Association continued on Wednesday, as the association itself issued a rebuttal to flyers the union members have been handing out this week. {sidebar id=107}


At the same time, federal officials are investigating a complaint filed by the union alleging that the association has broken federal labor law by not bargaining in good faith.


The first of the employees were locked out starting this weekend, with the rest of them finding themselves locked out on Monday, as Lake County News has reported.


The dozen and a half union members, represented by Laborers International Union of North America Local 139, continued a protest picket on Wednesday, asking the community for donations of food and toys to help them get through the lockout and the holiday season.


They stood on a corner by Hardester's Market and near the elementary school, dispensing flyers and waving to drivers, many of whom honked in reply.


Union business manager Dave George said they still haven't received any information from HVLA about why it locked out the employees. “It's been the strangest negotiations.”


George and the union maintain that the lockout is illegal, and that HVLA is not bargaining in good faith.


HVLA General Manager Jim Johnson has refused to comment publicly on the situation, and HVLA Board President Don Dornbush did not return a call placed Wednesday seeking comment.


However, on Wednesday HVLA did offer a written rebuttal to the flyers being distributed by the union workers.


The document, which HVLA would only hand out at its office, said that Johnson's place of residence, salary and pension package should not be questioned, and explained he is a Hidden Valley Lake resident who receives no pension from the association.


HVLA's response stated that Johnson has neither “'coerced' nor encouraged union workers,” the majority of which currently make more than the union contract rates.


The association also asserted that they've not suggested those contract rates be lowered, and added that the only HVLA employees who currently have pensions are union workers.


HVLA maintains that it has bargained in good faith throughout the negotiation process, and signed a contract continuance that ended Nov. 14.


According to the rebuttal, the union canceled a contract negotiation scheduled for Nov. 11, Veterans Day.


George told Lake County News on Tuesday that the union planned to file charges against HVLA with the National Labor Relations Board.


Joseph Norelli, the National Labor Relations Board regional director for the San Francisco regional office, confirmed Wednesday that his office had received the filing.


“We are just beginning to investigate this,” Norelli said.


On Nov. 14, the day the bargaining agreement expired, the union filed a charge alleging that HVLA had threatened the employees with a lockout on Saturday because they were at an impasse, according to Norelli.


He was notified by the union's attorney on Saturday morning that the lockout had begun.


Local 139 has alleged the lockout is illegal. For the lockout to be legal, Norelli said HVLA needs to show that they haven't committed unfair labor practices, that they're bargaining in good faith, and have been unable to reach an agreement and so must lock out employees.


“The law gives them that right,” said Norelli, but he said it remains to be seen if this is a legal or illegal lockout situation.


Norelli said he's expediting an investigation into the allegations at the union's request. The investigation could take as long as 49 days, although Norelli said they'll try to get it done faster than that.


The union has requested the labor board seek an injunction in federal district court that would require HVLA to immediately reinstate all of its employees, said Norelli.


That, in turn, could lead to a settlement or litigation before the labor board concerning whether or not the employees would have to be permanently reinstated and “made whole” with the payment of back wages and benefits, he said.


Norelli said Local 139 began filing a succession of charges against HVLA in the late spring.


“We investigated all of those charges and in September we found that there was merit to a number of those charges,” he said, adding that some charges also weren't found valid.


HVLA was found to have made changes in employment terms and conditions without notice or bargaining with the union, said Norelli, which is a breach of labor law.


As required by law, the labor board offered HVLA an opportunity to settle, which they did. That settlement required that HVLA – which didn't admit guilt – agree that they would not repeat the mistake, and would post a notice telling employees of their rights and listing the allegations.


“It's just bringing to everyone's attention that this was done unlawfully without bargaining,” Norelli said of the notice.


HVLA also had to reimburse employees for any losses they suffered which, in this case, were related to changes in the rules about letting employees take home company vehicles, he said.


After the settlement, things appeared to be resolved. “We haven't heard much from them since then until we got a charge late in the day on Friday,” said Norelli.


Norelli said the new charges against HVLA also raise concerns about the association's compliance with the previous settlement, which was reached toward the end of September, and is still in a 60-day notice period.


He said that settlement also required that HVLA not refuse the union relevant information requests about such things as wage levels – which George and Local 139 are alleging HVLA is now doing.


“We have not yet closed this case on compliance,” he said. “They may be breaching the settlement agreement, which would require that this settlement be set aside.”


That would necessitate a new complaint, which Norelli said could lead to a new settlement or to litigation.


George suggested that HVLA's new management may not fully understand its duties in the negotiations process.


An HVLA Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The lockout is expected to be a topic of discussion.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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