Monday, November 12, 2012

Arbitrator finds Boeing improperly limited bargaining unit

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace challenged the actions of Boeing in limiting the extension of its cba to certain employees at its Edwards Air Force Base and Palmdale, California locations. Employees had initially been temporarily assigned to these locations from Seattle, where the Union was recognized as bargaining representative. At a later point these temporary assignments were made permanent and Boeing and the Union entered into an agreement extending recognition for employees "assigned to" these locations. Boeing also acquired the aerospace interests of Rockwell International, and merged with McDonnell Douglas, both of which had operations at these locations.

While initially keeping the operations of the former Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas operation separate, Boeing subsequently integrated these operations with existing Boeing operations in a new organization. While the heritage Rockwell and Boeing employees were grandfathered in their non represented status, a dispute arose concerning the extension of Union recognition to other employees placed in what the Union claimed were bargaining unit positions.

Boeing challenged the Union's efforts to arbitrate the dispute, asserting that the grievance was untimely. Rejecting this argument, Arbitrator Michael Beck concluded that the violation alleged was a continuing one. Arbitrator Beck also rejected Boeing's claim that the demand for arbitration was not timely filed. Noting the numerous discussions between the parties concerning the grievance, an action by the Union to compel arbitration, and the absence of earlier statements by Boeing challenging the timeliness of a demand, the Arbitrator found that Boeing "has waived the right to invoke timeliness as a defense to the Union's demand for arbitration."

Turning to the merits, the Arbitrator concluded that Boeing was collaterally estopped on the unit placement issue by a prior decision of an NLRB Regional Director (here) rejecting a request by Boeing to clarify the bargaining unit to exclude engineers and technicians working at Edwards/Palmdale.

He further ordered Boeing to make whole employees who suffered losses by not being covered by the cba, and to make whole the Union for lost dues.

SPEEA links to the award here.

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