NLRB Punts Sun-Times Media’s Decision to Lay Off Photographers/unit chair to DC

Yesterday (Thursday, Aug. 29), Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago sent the decision over whether to reinstate the laid off photographers and the Unit Chair of the Chicago Sun-Times to the Division of Advice in Washington DC.

In March the Sun-Times Unit Chair was laid off. Two months later, on May 30, Sun-Times Media laid off virtually all of its photographers. In both instances, the Company failed to bargain in good faith with the Guild and the Guild challenged that unilateral action through its NLRB charge.

It is unusual that one of the many NLRB regional offices sends cases to the NLRB Division of Advice. Usually the Region will either issue a complaint for a federal hearing or else dismiss it unless the decision involves a complex matter of labor law.

“I think it is a positive development that Region 13 has sent our case to the NLRB Division of Advice in Washington DC,” said the Chicago Newspaper Guild’s Executive Director Craig Rosenbaum.

“The case involving the unilateral firing of our leader at the Sun-Times and of all of the photographers involves a complex legal issue. It is our position that the Company violated the National Labor Relations Act when it made unilateral decisions regarding layoffs and other working conditions without bargaining with the Guild.  The flexible work rules and layoff procedures in the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated out of the bankruptcy terminated in October, upon the 60 day termination notice that the Guild sent to the Company last August. Certainly Wrapports is on alert that any further unilateral layoffs may result in substantial monetary liability for backpay, not to mention the legal fees to fight the Guild and the National Labor Relations Board.”

The next step is for the Guild to seek to present oral argument in Washington DC. “Our objective is to get the process at the NLRB’s Division of Advice started so we can get an expeditious result that will immediately reinstate all of our photographers and our Sun-Times Unit Chair with backpay,” said Rosenbaum.

The NLRB found no merit to the Guild’s charge that Sun-Times Media had anti-union intent in laying off the Guild Unit Chair. The Guild plans to appeal this aspect of the decision to the NLRB Office of Appeals in Washington DC. However, Rosenbaum stated that the Guild’s appeal may be rendered moot if the Division of Advice orders issuance of a Board complaint on the charge that would seek reinstatement of all laid off employees, including the Sun-Times Unit Chair, on the basis that the flexible layoff procedures of the MOU do not continue in indefinite duration.

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