1/31/08

UAW violations may force new Casino War battle

The National Labor Relations Board hearing that featured a debate over sovereign immunity, examined the complexities of the Chinese language and scrutinized the pre-election conduct of union organizers came to a close Tuesday.

Coming out of the seven-day hearing, attorneys representing both sides — the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and pro-union dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino — said they are confident that a favorable decision will come their way.

Richard Hankins, an attorney representing the tribe, said he was “very pleased” with how the hearing went.

Meanwhile, pro-union dealers at Foxwoods, who volunteered their time to work on the United Auto Workers union's organizing committee, said they feel vindicated, and the testimony proves that the UAW ran a positive campaign.

“We look forward to our 'yes' vote being certified,” said Jacqueline Little, a poker dealer at Foxwoods since the day it opened and also a volunteer on the union's organizing committee.

Now, the waiting begins.

Administrative law judge Raymond P. Green's written decision, which he expects to issue in early March, will determine whether the union election held Nov. 24 at Foxwoods Resort Casino was valid.

Table game and poker dealers voted 1,289 to 852 in favor of union representation by the UAW union in the election. The tribe has questioned why the ballots were not printed in multiple languages, why an election notice was only printed in one Chinese dialect and also contends that UAW representatives harassed and intimidated eligible voters before the election.

Green asked that attorneys representing the tribe, UAW and NLRB file their legal briefs with him by Feb. 28. He said he will make his decision after reading the briefs but does not expect to issue a decision any later than March 15.

Green could certify the election results or call for a new election.

The majority of documents entered into evidence throughout the hearing dealt with the issue of language and to what extent Asian dealers, specifically those who speak Chinese, can speak, read and comprehend English.

Green, as an aside at the beginning of the hearing, said that if it were his decision, he would have printed the ballots in Chinese.

The judge also questioned at one point whether it would be possible to quantify just to what level the Chinese-speaking dealers understand English.

Attorneys for the NLRB and the tribe are working on compiling a spreadsheet that aims to quantify just how many dealers may speak Chinese as a primary language.

Using employees' I-9 forms as well as their gaming license records, it has been determined that at least 454 dealers were born in China and more than 700 identified themselves as “Asian” or Pacific Islander.”

Along with the language-portion of evidence, Green will also have to weigh testimony given at the hearing that focused on the conduct of union representatives leading up to the election.

Some dealers, called by the tribe's attorneys, testified that they had been harassed, intimidated and has their car nearly run off the road by another vehicle.

Diane Weaver said she was surrounded in an employee cafeteria by a group of 10 to 15 union supporters, who shouted at her. Weaver, a table game dealer for five years, testified that one person called her “stupid” and another threatened to beat her.

Weaver said at that time that fellow dealer Donald MacPhee II initiated the conversation when they were both heading off the gaming floor to take one of their allotted 20-minute breaks.

UAW attorney Tom Meiklejohn called MacPhee to the stand Tuesday.

Having left his shift at Foxwoods earlier that morning, MacPhee took the witness stand still wearing his uniform.

MacPhee said he did initiate a conversation relating to union representation with Weaver. He also acknowledged that while having that conversation in the cafeteria, three other dealers chimed in. MacPhee said he remembered someone saying, “What, are you stupid?” in reference to Weaver's anti-union view. But, MacPhee said he does not recall anyone ever threatening to harm Weaver and said she was not surrounded by 10 or so dealers.

During Hankins' cross-examination, MacPhee said he was not present for the entire conversation between pro-union dealers and Weaver.

And then there was the case of Bob Madore, the director of UAW Region 9A.

Debra Beebe, a dual-rate dealer for almost 15 years, said she attended a union meeting held the week before the election at the union hall in Norwich. At it, she said, “Bob” spoke and told those in the crowd the union would know who voted “no” in the election and that if those individuals filed grievances, there would be a way for the union to “retaliate.” Beebe testified that she heard Bob say that if someone who was anti-union filed a grievance, the person's paperwork would be shoved to the bottom of the stack.

In his testimony that spanned only minutes, Madore emphatically denied even speaking about grievances at the meeting.

When asked about the differing accounts and inconsistencies, Hankins said: “It's the judge's job to decide who he believes.”

Hankins also pointed out that the UAW's attorneys did not call anyone to the stand to refute several claims made by dealers that they were questioned in the employee cafeteria about how they had voted.

“The fact are undisputed,” Hankins said.

Little remains confident in the union and the campaign that was run by volunteers like herself and union staffers and said she is certain that no one's conduct was so egregious that the vote should be tossed out.

“Some of the testimony, something may have been said or done, that were unfortunate, but I don't think they had the result of anyone feeling intimidated or disenfranchised,” she said.

Little said she hears from fellow dealers that their employer is “grasping at straws” and only delaying the certification of the vote.

If the vote is certified, Hankins said the tribe will examine its legal options and decide how to proceed.

(theday.com)

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