Paper Ordered to Rehire Workers; 'Cease and Desist' Violating Rights
UPAGRA members in Puerto Rico protesting in 2009 after 107 circulation workers at El Vocero were fired. The NLRB has ordered the workers rehired.
In a sweeping victory for UPAGRA/TNG-CWA members at Puerto Rico's El Vocero newspaper, the National Labor Relations Board is ordering the company to rehire 107 illegally fired circulation workers and "cease and desist" from a long list of other anti-union violations.
The unanimous NLRB decision Dec. 8, by two Democrats and one Republican, upheld a 2010 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Michael Rosas. Trying the case over three months in early 2010, Rosas found the company lacked credibility by claiming that shutting down the circulation department was a financial necessity.
The Board agreed, finding as Rosas did that El Vocero created an "alter ego," News Distributor, "for the purpose of evading collective bargaining obligations." The circulation jobs were subcontracted to the new, non-union shell company.
The Board noted that El Vocero "implicitly excepted" to Rosas' findings regarding the company's truthfulness, but said, "We have carefully examined the record and find no basis for reversing the findings."
TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said the ruling is a "tremendous victory" for the embattled El Vocero workers, and a blow against union-busting. "This is a big win, and it should give El Vocero and all employers who pull these stunts the kind of angst they richly deserve," he said.
Nestor Soto-Lopez, UPAGRA executive secretary and at-large diversity member of the CWA Executive Board, said the workers are "very happy" with the decision.
"It is a triumph for them and for UPAGRA and was made possible with support from CWA and the Guild," Soto-Lopez said. "We will be working to ensure that the decision is enforced and all the brothers and sisters in this struggle are vindicated."
As El Vocero continues its expected fight against the ruling, Soto-Lopez said the union will seek a 10(e) injunction in federal court. That would force the company to follow the NLRB's order while the case proceeds.
Specifically, the ruling orders El Vocero to rehire the 107 workers and "make them whole" for their loss of earnings and benefits as a result of the circulation department's elimination.
The ruling also orders the company to cease and desist from behavior that includes:
- "Failing and refusing to bargain with and recognize UPAGRA as the workers' exclusive collective-bargaining representative."
- "Failing and refusing to adhere to the terms" of a 2008 agreement regarding the pension plan and other benefits.
- Unilaterally changing unit employees' pay dates, medical insurance, vacation, severance and bumping rights.
- Permitting supervisors to perform bargaining unit work.
- Undermining the union by telling employees that El Vocero wants to bargain with them directly rather than with UPAGRA.