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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Labor violations complaint filed against Peckham

The National Labor Relations Board alleges the nonprofit of unfair labor practices, Peckham denies accusations

by Sam Inglot

This story was updated August 10 with a response from the Peckham administration denying the accusations made in the complaint.  

Thursday, Aug. 9 — The National Labor Relations Board has filed a formal complaint against Peckham Vocational Industries saying the management has engaged in unfair labor practices.

The NLRB is a federal agency that protects employees’ rights to organize in unions and pursue collective bargaining.

The case started with a complaint to the NLRB by the United Peckham Employee Association, a union that has been attempting to organize the company’s workers. Organizers with the union include present and former Peckham workers and outside labor organizers.

The NLRB investigated the allegation and filed a formal complaint on July 19, said Terry Morgan, regional director for Region 7 of the NLRB, which covers all of Michigan except the Upper Peninsula. The process, she said, starts when people or unions file charges with the NLRB alleging labor violations by an employer. The NLRB then conducts an investigation and collects information regarding the allegation. If there is sufficient evidence of a violation then the case can be taken before an administrative law judge.

Unfair labor practices in the complaint include: Prohibiting solicitation of signatures of union authorization cards on the work floor; “threatening” employees with closure of the facility if they unionize; “surveillance” of employees engaged in union activities; and “selectively and disparately” removing and prohibiting bulletin board postings regarding the union.

To “remedy” the violations, Morgan said, Peckham would have to “cease and desist from engaging in the conduct” and “post appropriate notices to employees” regarding their National Labor Relations Act rights.

A trial before a judge is set for Sept. 20, but it is yet to be determined where it will be held.

Bonnie Zimmerman, public relations administrator at Peckham said they filed a response to the complaint and denied all the accusations. She said Peckham is “well-respected” in Lansing and the “culture” of the Peckham workplace is one of “profound respect” toward its workers.
“We don’t believe any of the charges have any merit whatsoever,” she said. “We do not treat people like this.”

Peckham is a nonprofit, vocational rehabilitation and paid job-training program. The goal of Peckham, officials have said, is to take people who have had difficulty finding work, like the mentally and physically disabled, and give them the training and support they need to find work out in the community. 

In previous interviews, Peckham officials have said workers at the garment facility are not “employees,” they are “clients,” and therefore would not fall under the protection of the NLRA.

It’s a point that Morgan said Peckham will likely bring up in court, but she said she “would not have issued a complaint if I had evidence showing they weren’t employees.” She said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of the evidence.

Just over 22,000 unfair labor practice charges were filed with the NLRB in 2011, according to data on the agency’s website. Of those 22,000 only 1,342 formal complaints were issued. It also states that more than half of the charges are withdrawn or dismissed and that the majority of complaints are settled between parties before a court case is needed.

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