Brings Justice To Missouri Workers Standing For the IAM

Lucy Stanfield and Shannon Bartle discuss the results of the NRLB ruling with Grand Lodge Representative William LePinske.

On Jan. 31, IAM District 9 Organizing Coordinator Bob Beloit met with former Motor Appliance Corporation (MAC) employees in Washington, MO, as he had done almost every week for a year.

This meeting was different, though. It was full of hope and relief after wading through a mess of legal and emotional strife that left Beloit and four former MAC employees exhausted.

Beloit was there to officially tell these workers that their testimonies in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case were worth it. The NLRB judge had just filed his decision, ruling that their former employer broke the law, and that they now have a decision to make—do they want their jobs
back?

Interest in the IAM
Machine operators at MAC started seeking union representation in November 2021 because they knew a union was their only path for better working conditions, a voice on the job and better pay.

Employees felt the company wasn’t properly addressing reports of harassment, and that IAM representation would establish a grievance process and employee protections that would make things better.

Beloit was assigned to their organizing campaign. Three weeks after he initially spoke with the lead contact at MAC trying to organize the union, the group had signed enough authorization cards to get a union election.

Union-Busting

“The union-busting consultant reached out to the employer the same day that we filed the petition,” said Beloit. “In less than a week’s time, they were actually going after our people. It started out pretty standard until the captive audience meeting.”

MAC contracted the labor consulting firm Sparta Solutions to provide “its own very special brand of union avoidance services” at the rate of $375 per hour, explains Judge Robert A. Ringler in his case decision.
Sparta’s president and the consultant assigned to MAC both operated under fake names such as “Jack Black” and “Aleks Greene.”

The man who was only known to MAC employees as his alias “Aleks Greene,” illegally insisted on meeting one-on-one with known union supporters, including Shannon Bartle and Jessica Krausch, to question them about their union support.

“We were pulled into meetings, we had no choice,” said Krausch. “We had to be there, otherwise they said that we were voluntarily quitting.” In the meetings, the Sparta consultant aggressively intimidated Krausch and Bartle, feeding them misinformation about the futility of unionizing and threatening pay freezes and intensified surveillance.

Jessica Krausch relayed her interactions with Sparta. “I didn’t know the laws at that point,” said Krausch. “I didn’t know that 90 percent of what he was saying was either incorrect or unlawful. I just knew that I was being put into a position that I did not feel safe.”

The judge deemed those exchanges unlawful interrogations because “the questioning involved a protected activity” with “animus ranging from threats to unlawful firings.”

After those meetings, MAC and Sparta started finding reasons to fire or force a resignation from just enough pro-union employees to ensure the union wouldn’t have enough votes in the election.

Nic Kampschroeder was the first to be fired. He had a seizure while at work, and MAC used that and the claim that he was “loafing” on the clock as reasons for firing him.

Then Sparta’s consultant held a pivotal captive audience meeting with all employees where he constructively discharged union supporters Shannon Bartle and Lucy Stanfield.

“A constructive discharge means that the employer makes working conditions so difficult or unpleasant that the employee is forced to resign,” says IAM General Counsel Carla M. Siegel.

Jessica Krausch recorded the meeting where Shannon and Lucy were discharged.

“I know previously some people had said if they get pulled into any other meetings, that they were going to quit. Well feel free right now, your bosses are here to tender your resignation. Are there any takers? Any Takers?” prodded Sparta’s union-buster at the start of the meeting.

Bartle and Stanfield felt compelled to resign in that moment.

In an exchange with MAC human resources after she was forced to resign, Bartle explained: “I told him [a supervisor] that I cannot handle that meeting. When the union buster came in and bullied us and threatened us, I could not take it anymore. I really did like my job, but I could not take the stress and bullying anymore.”

The judge decided that MAC knew requiring Bartle and Stanfield to attend a mandatory anti-union meeting would prompt their resignation, which qualifies as constructive discharges.

MAC was successful in firing enough pro-union employees to extinguish the IAM’s chances of winning the election.

When Beloit reported the details of the failed election to the IAM Midwest Territory, the union reported MAC’s unfair labor practices to the National Labor Relations Board, which swiftly and dutifully brought charges against MAC and Sparta.

Remedy

Nicholas Kampschroeder with wife Miranda Kampschroeder.

The judge implemented what’s known as a Gissel bargaining order, a remedy the Board will impose when an employer egregiously violates the law by engaging in unfair labor practices.

“A Gissel bargaining order is not at all common,” says Siegel. “Here, it requires the employer to bargain with the union immediately without any further election.”

The NLRB took another Nicholas Kampschroeder with wife extraordinary step in this Miranda Kampschroeder.
case when it brought charges not only against the Company, MAC, as is typical, but also against the firm the company hired to persuade employees not to join the union, Sparta.

“As far as we are aware, this was the first time the board took such steps in many decades,” Siegel said.
The judge also ordered that MAC “cease and desist” from threatening, interrogating, misinforming, increasing surveillance of, and firing employees in response to their protected activity.

Finally, MAC was made to offer jobs back to Nicholas Kampschroeder, Shannon Bartle, and Lucy Stanfield and
“make them whole for any loss of earnings and benefits suffered as a result of its unlawful discrimination against them.”

Only Because of Biden’s NLRB
“Make no mistake, this decision would never have come under the previous administration,” says IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steven Galloway. “The result of this case was made possible by a labor-friendly administration that finally put worker-supportive, union members in charge of the NLRB.”

Less than a month after President Biden took office, he nominated Jennifer Abruzzo, an experienced NLRB attorney and former Special Counsel to the Communications Workers of America (CWA), as General Counsel for the NLRB. She would replace the former president’s appointee, pro-business and anti-labor Peter B. Robb.

These workers would never have gotten justice for the harm they suffered to their rights and their livelihoods without President Biden’s pro-worker appointments to the board.

Protected by the IAM

“I tell my groups to not be afraid to let the company know they support the union. That’s the best thing you can do,” says Beloit. “If you’re on record as being a union supporter, then I can offer you more protection.”

Nicholas Kampschroeder, Shannon Bartle, and Lucy Stanfield are all strongly considering returning to the positions they were bullied out of at Motor Appliance Corporation.

“I would feel proud walking back in there as a union employee,” said Bartle. “The union fought so hard for us. To walk back in there with this victory and to have the union behind us would feel great. They tried to knock us out and they didn’t.”

The facts of this case may seem extraordinary, but it is all too common that employers hire union busters to influence employees in their selection of a representative.

“This case set a strong precedent against the manipulative tactics used here and serves as a warning to other employers and ‘labor consultants’: the IAM and the NLRB will protect workers’ rights to select a union of their choice without undue interference from employers and union busters,” said Siegel.

Kampshroeder, Bartle, and Stanfield all know they’ll be on the bargaining committee for a first contract if they choose to go back to MAC. Beloit will turn the group over to District 9 Business Representative Joe Eccardt to guide them in negotiations.

“This victory is a huge win for these workers! We all look forward to a day in the future that all corporations universally respect workers’ rights to organize without interference.” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway.

Video: Understanding the NLRB

 

 

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