Labor Board presses Operating Engineers in record RCC job’s safety flap

Source: National Labor Relations Board, Washington, D.C.

In a brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, NLRB General Counsel seek enforcement of an April 2010 order that Operating Engineers Local 513, Bridgeton, Mo., cease action against a foreman who cited a fellow member for safety violations.

The case arose out of a routine safety-reporting incident in November 2008—placement of a truck-mounted Telebelt mix conveyor’s outrigger at a 30-in. length versus a required, full 64-in. length—during the Taum Sauk reservoir reconstruction. Encompassing a record 3 million yd. of roller compacted concrete, the southeast Missouri project saw joint venture contractor Ozark Constructors LLC deploy the conveyors for mix placement.

Local 513 had a collective bargaining agreement with Ozark Constructors partner Fred Weber Inc., a St. Louis-based aggregate producer and road builder, and represented about 200 Taum Sauk workers. They included a nine-member crew under a seasoned Telebelt hand, Mark Overton. A member of Operating Engineers Local 953 (Albuquerque), he was issued a Local 513 traveler permit to perform mix and material placement for second Ozark Constructors partner, Pueblo, Colo.-based ASI Constructors Inc.

Overton reported the outrigger incident to an Ozark Constructors supervisor, leading to a three-day suspension of a Local 513 member who acknowledged responsibility for the incorrectly set truck-stabilizing device. Local 513 officials pursued internal union charges against Overton, while Ozark Constructors defended the incident reporting as required action well within a job site safety orientation stipulating: a) “Employees MUST report all accidents/incidents to their supervisor immediately, no matter how slight”; and, b) “Employees are expected to learn and comply with all project safety rules, regulations and policies applicable to their specific work tasks, as a condition of employment.”

Against Ozark Constructors’ protests and appeal to the NLRB, union officials pursued the charges, alleging “Gross disloyalty or conduct unbecoming a member,” and fined Overton $2,500. In their mid-February Appellate Court brief, NLRB general counsel staff note: “A union has the prerogative to regulate its own internal affairs with an important caveat that the Supreme Court has clearly set forth—it cannot coerce an employee to follow a union stricture that will impact that employee’s employment status. The Union did just that, coercing employee Mark Overton with internal charges and a fine for reporting a safety violation that he was required to report.”

In April 2010, the Board affirmed an administrative law judge’s findings and ordered Local 513 to rescind Overton’s fine, remove from its files all references to internal union proceedings against him in connection with the fine, and cease and desist from the unfair labor practice. The Operating Engineers’ petition for a review of the order followed.