Lane, Pratt, Doyle Back to Work —
Labor Board Charges
Union heroes. Local 684 leaders Dale Wilkinson, Roy
Bolinger and Crystal Pratt receive a standing ovation at this year’s UE National Convention. Also pictured is Intl. Rep. Deb
Gornall, Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley.
Ron Lane Sr., who was illegally fired by The Electric Materials Co. (TEMCO), and Michael Doyle and Crystal
Pratt, who were illegally laid off, returned to their jobs at the North East plant on Monday, Dec. 2.
This long-awaited development follows the company’s agreement to comply with a ruling by a National Labor Relations
Board administrative law judge issued Nov. 1.
Judge Bernard Schlesinger found TEMCO guilty of repeated violations of labor law, including deliberately stalling
first-contract negotiations with UE Local 684 and discriminatory treatment of union supporters.
In a lengthy ruling that upholds the majority of charges filed by the union, Judge Schlesinger directed TEMCO to
"meet and bargain in good faith with the union for an initial collective-bargaining agreement."
The company is also instructed to reinstate Lane, Pratt and Doyle, and make each of them whole for loss of earnings and
other benefits. The ruling also finds that TEMCO made unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment and engaged in unlawful
harassment of union activists.
In a meeting last month with union and Labor Board officials, TEMCO management agreed to fully comply. That includes
good-faith negotiations, removal of disciplinary memoranda and restitution of wages lost due to discriminatory treatment, as well as the
reinstatement of Lane, Doyle and Pratt. UE Genl. Pres. John Hovis, District Six Pres. John Lambiase and Intl. Rep. Debra
Gornall represented the union at that meeting.
The trial before Judge Schlesinger began July 9, 2001, prompted by a complaint issued by the Regional Director for NLRB
Region Six consisting of more than 50 allegations that TEMCO denied workers their rights under law. Testimony concluded in April 2002.
Workers employed by TEMCO, a manufacturer of specialty copper products used in the heavy electrical industry, voted for UE
representation Dec. 9, 1999. Between the 1999 representation election and the first hearings on unfair labor practice charges,
"various of the leaders of the organizing drive had lost their jobs or had been disciplined for the first time, after years
unblemished by meaningful discipline," observed Judge Schlesinger.
Negotiations began in early 2000. Over the next year, union representatives met with management more than 30 times in an
attempt to reach a fair settlement but faced continual obstruction from TEMCO and its attorneys.
By failing to negotiate on wages, TEMCO "needlessly delayed and hampered negotiations for a year," Judge
Schlesinger ruled. TEMCO’s delay, the judge wrote, "was based solely on delay and nothing more." The company further stalled
bargaining with "unconscionable" delay in "complying with the union’s legitimate requests for documents." This, the
judge said, is "further evidence of bad faith in its attempt to frustrate bargaining and ensure the failure of the
The judge later observed, "The excuses for the delay, made by an attorney experienced in labor relations, were
Several pages of the ruling are devoted to the Ron Lane case. Lane, a member of the UE organizing committee with an
unblemished work record of nearly 15 years, was fired little more than a month after the union election victory.
Management accused him of making threatening phone calls to a plant foreman, a longtime friend.
Judge Schlesinger ruled that the company "seized on the telephone messages, which were not threats, and used them as
a means to discharge a well-known union supporter," in violation of labor law.
Crystal Pratt, a 25-year employee and prominent union leader, was laid off in September 2001 on the basis of a written
warning issued earlier that year. This was the first time in 14 years she had received any discipline — and the first time her foreman
had ever issued a written warning for the alleged violation of the particular rules. In addition to singling out Pratt for harsher
punishment, TEMCO "violated its own progressive discipline policy," Judge Schlesinger wrote. He ruled the company’s
disciplinary action and layoff of Pratt illegal because based on her union activity.
Also, the administrative law judge found that TEMCO unlawfully suspended Michelle Drakulic, delayed a wage increase
due Harry Barlow and issued warnings to Ron Soder and James Lafferty, also because of their union activities.
In the same painstaking detail, Judge Schlesinger found evidence of illegal, anti-union conduct in other cases of
discrimination and with regard to number of instances in which TEMCO unilaterally changed conditions of employment without giving the
union an opportunity to bargain and bypassing the union to deal directly with employees.
Leading up to the December 1999 representation election, the judge observed, the company had set up what it called a
"Fact Board," a large bulletin board dedicated to anti-union propaganda. "What sticks out is that, even after the election,
[TEMCO] still retained the ‘Fact Board,’ continuing to spread information as if it was still contesting the right of the union to
represent its employees."
TEMCO removed the "Fact Board" in November as a gesture of its willingness to abide by the ruling and obey the
As the Labor Board had issued a complaint, NLRB attorneys took the lead in argumentation before the administrative law
judge. Local 684 members were assisted in the mammoth Labor Board proceedings by UE staff attorney Joanne Koslofsky, Intl. Rep. Gornall
and District Pres. Lambiase.
TEMCO, in addition to restoring Lane, Pratt and Doyle to their jobs with back wages, has agreed to make Drakulic and
Barlow whole for loss of earnings by the end of the month. Negotiations are expected to begin early in 2003.
CONTINUING THE FIGHT
UE Local 684 members have continued to fight for a contract, despite their employer’s discriminatory and illegal
conduct. They voted to pay dues, collected in the shop by stewards, to meet the local union’s expenses. Local 684 maintains a union hall
directly across the street from TEMCO. Local 684 has enjoyed the support of the national union and UE locals in the Erie area. A recent
plant-gate collection by Local 506 at the Erie General Electric plant netted more than $2,800 for the TEMCO workers’ union.