Feb. 1, 2012 | US Foods in Severn, Maryland, must handle Department of Transportation (DOT) violations through the same 5-step process it handles other disciplinary actions, according to a decision by arbitrator M. David Vaughn of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
The ruling, made by the arbitrator January 24, found US Foods violated the collective bargaining agreement and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by unilaterally imposing in November 2010 an Hours of Service (HOS) policy for Local 355's 112 drivers without properly negotiating the terms with the Union.
The Employer notified the Union of its intention to roll out the new policy in August 2010. Because the policy involved a change in practice of the disciplinary steps, i.e., a reduction to 3 from the standard 5-step process, the Union sought to bargain over the changes and the likely impact on the drivers. Although a number of phone discussions were conducted with management about the policy, Union requests for additional information and answers to specific questions went unaddressed. The Union filed a formal grievance in November 2010 when the Company implemented its policy.
The Employer notified the Local in January 2011 denying the Union's grievance. Local 355 filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge with the regional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and in July 2011, the board deferred the charge to arbitration.The arbitration was heard in late fall 2011 during 2 days of testimony.
At a grievance meeting on a separate issue early in the dispute, the Severn-based management claimed implementation of their new HOS Policy was US Foods' response to a DOT audit at another location, and that because it "came from Corporate" and was being rolled out corporate-wide, their "hands were tied."
In his decision, the arbitrator wrote: "'Corporate policy' is not a defense to failure to bargain."
"We're very pleased with this outcome," said Ed Mulford, chief shop steward who lead the case through the grievance/arbitration process on behalf of the drivers. "While we encourage our members to remain in compliance with all DOT policies, we will continue to press for fairness in the application of discipline under the Company's policy."
Business agent Jim Deene notes that copies of the arbitrator's decision have been delivered to shop stewards, and Wednesday morning a copy of the last page (describing the arbitrator's award) will be posted on all the Union's bulletin boards. Additionally, you may download the arbitrator's entire 38-page Opinion and Award (pdf).