Lawyers for the National Correctional Employees Union tried to lay the groundwork for their case that the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement was not collectively bargained at a Labor Relations Board hearing Monday.
The union has petitioned the labor department to hold an election to decertify AFSCME Council 4 as the union representing correctional officers and replace them. The topic of the hearing was whether NCEU had submitted its petition to call a membership vote within an acceptable contract window.
Typically the Labor Board requires such a petition to be filed during the month of August prior to the expiration of the union’s current contract with the state. For correction officers that would have been August 2010. However, the rule allows the board to make exceptions when it sees fit.
John Connor, NCEU’s lawyer, said the SEBAC agreement passed by state employees in August does not represent a collective bargaining agreement, therefore another window is open.
“It is my understanding that the SEBAC agreement is not a collective bargaining agreement. A collective bargaining agreement is a separate state document,” he said.
He questioned Cathleen Simpson of the Office of Labor Relations extensively about when that agreement may have been arrived at. Simpson reported that negotiations between state and the union were at impasse in July and arbitration had been scheduled for September. The last time the two parties sat down to negotiate was July 26, she said. But the issue resolved itself when state employees ratified the wage and benefit concessions, she said.
Connor wanted to know how agreement was reached between July 26 and when the deal was ratified, if the two parties never sat down to negotiate. Simpson said that when correctional officers approved the terms of the agreement they ended the contract negotiations.
“From my point of view, yes, it resolved it, they now had a successor [contract],” she said.
Still Connor framed and re-framed questions trying to get at when a separate collective bargaining agreement may have been reached. Almost every question was met by objections from AFSCME’s lawyer William Gagne Jr.
“I think she’s explained over and over again what the process was. He just doesn’t like the answer,” he said.
Connor also asked AFSCME Local 391 president Jon Pepe if at any time there were other agreements in the works. Pepe, who was a member of Local 319’s negotiation team, said there wasn’t.
“There was no agreement on anything,” he said.
Connor also asked Pepe whether Local 319 had two separate votes for the SEBAC agreement and the contract agreement. Pepe said the union had two separate ballots, one for each question.
The hearing concluded with Labor Relations Board Chairwoman Patricia V. Low instructing parties from all sides to file their briefs for the case by the close of business on Nov. 29. At some point after that the board will make a decision whether to allow the membership vote or dismiss the case.