NRLCA Steward Unlawfully Threatened Worker, NLRB Judge Says

A mail carriers union steward violated federal labor law by threatening a U.S. Postal Service worker who raised complaints about poor working conditions at an Oregon postal facility, an NLRB judge ruled, saying the union acted in bad faith.

National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge Gerald M. Etchingham said in a decision Friday that the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening USPS worker Tamara Newboles with discipline if she continued to complain about workplace conditions.Judge Etchingham said union steward Carrie Firman-Berry and former supervisor Marsha Pickles engaged in “invidious intent and bad faith conduct” when they called Newboles into an “investigatory meeting” at the mail carrier’s Bend, Oregon, facility and prohibited her from voicing concerns on behalf of other workers.

Newboles was a rural carrier at the Bend facility who has worked for USPS for more than 26 years, according to the judge’s decision. She began working at the main post office in January.

In June 2019, a supervisor ordered carriers to prioritize the delivery of packages from the main post office over the delivery of rural parcels from the Bend facility on Mondays. This new order affected the delivery of Amazon packages on Sundays and caused the volume of undelivered rural parcels to increase to where some of those packages would not be delivered at all, according to the decision.

“Thus, it became more frequent that a Monday rollover would make for busier and heavier Monday route deliveries for rural carriers at the Bend” facility, the judge wrote.

The extra deliveries on Mondays resulted in two additional hours of unpaid work for rural carriers, according to Friday’s decision.

Carriers began informally complaining about the new order, according to Newboles’ testimony. During a management meeting on July 15, Newboles offered to find a stipulation within the collective bargaining agreement and send it to Firman-Berry about the new order.

The next day, Pickles called Newboles into a meeting with Firman-Berry to address what they considered Newboles’ disruption of carriers on the workroom floor.

During the meeting, Newboles said Pickles told her to stay quiet about union activities, and Firman-Berry told Newboles to “stop butting into stuff” that didn’t involve her.

Pickles “verbally warned” Newboles that if she raised concerns about working conditions, she would face discipline, according to the judge’s decision. In November 2019, Pickles disciplined Newboles for the first time with a 14-day suspension.

Judge Etchingham said Newboles and Firman-Berry’s testimony were similar, but he found Newboles’ version of the events during the July 16 meeting “much more believable” given the number of complaints from carriers the day prior on July 15.

After a July 17 meeting with management, Newboles said that workers were advised to fill out a form from management and request time with Firman-Berry to discuss union-related issues.

Newboles filed this charge against the union on July 18, 2019. She filed a related charge in September 2019 against USPS, but the matter was settled in February 2020.

Judge Etchingham said Firman-Berry and Pickles discriminated against Newboles by making her a “scapegoat for providing the requested union contract language” and voicing complaints from other workers.

Firman-Berry departed from the normal practice of a union steward because of her “personal animosity towards Newboles,” the judge said, which “amounts to arbitrary behavior” that violates the NLRA.

The judge ordered the union to stop threatening employees with discipline if they engaged in concerted activities and post a notice that the union violated the NLRA.

Jean-Marc Favreau, counsel for the NRLCA, told Law360 on Monday that the union is still reviewing the decision and deciding what steps to take in the future.

“There’s some major factual discrepancies in the decision that are problematic,” Favreau said.

Representatives for the NLRB and USPS declined to comment.

The union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Newboles did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NLRB is represented in-house by Jose R. Rojas.

The union is represented by Jean-Marc Favreau of Peer Gan & Gisler LLP.

USPS is represented in-house by Dallas Kingsbury.

The case is National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association v. Tamara Newboles, case number 19-CB-245120, in the National Labor Relations Board, Division of Judges.


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National union relations board. They’re there for the worthless union.