Thursday, October 2, 2003

NLRB judge rules against Bigg's

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A National Labor Relations Board judge has ruled that Miami Township-based Bigg's hypermarket chain violated U.S. labor laws when it fired two employees and disciplined two others who distributed pro-union literature outside its stores.

Administrative Law Judge Arthur J. Amchan ruled that the fired workers should be reinstated with back pay and that Bigg's has no right to prohibit employees from handing out union fliers outside stores when they're not on company time.

The judge also ruled against several Bigg's policies, including a rule prohibiting workers from wearing union pins at its Union Centre store and rules denying off-duty employees access to parking lots and other commons areas outside stores.

Amchan issued the rulings last week after holding a six-day hearing in June.

Union officials have filed dozens of complaints over the past several years accusing Bigg's - a division of Minneapolis-based Supervalu - of discouraging employees from organizing under the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

But the ruling was the first time any of those complaints have been upheld by a judge.

"For years, we've been in a dispute with Bigg's over the way they treat workers, and I think this just verifies those complaints,'' said Bill Dudley, director of strategic planning for the UFCW's Local 1099 in Monroe.

"This isn't the union just making allegations anymore, it's a judge saying, 'You're absolutely right.'''

Despite the ruling, Bigg's isn't required to rehire either of the two workers until the full NLRB upholds the judge's decision.

Bigg's president and CEO Pierre Wevers was unavailable for comment Wednesday. But he said in a statement that the company disagrees with the rulings and plans to appeal.

"Bigg's success has always been an employee-driven organization,'' Wevers stated. "Throughout our 20-year history, our employees in the Greater Cincinnati area have never chosen union representation.''


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