In a recent ruling, Administrative Law Judge David Goldman sided with the unions representing the workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on their Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) filing. The unions had filed the ULP against the Post-Gazette because management had refused to pay into the collectively-bargained Taft-Hartley health and welfare benefit fund while the organization and the unions were in negotiations and the workforce were working under an expired agreement.
Beginning on January 1, 2015, per the collective bargaining agreements in place, the employees’ health care coverage was to be provided through a plan sponsored by a Taft-Hartley health and welfare benefit fund, paid for by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In March 2017, the collective bargaining agreement expired, however, under the law, the employer and unions are required to operate under the status quo, following the terms and conditions of employment outlined by the expired agreement, while parties negotiate for a new labor agreement. The expired agreement stipulated that the company would cover any employee increase in fund contributions up to 5%.
The company initially complied with the terms, and continued to pay into the fund until January 2018, when they unilaterally refused to pay the increase. As a result, the fund reduced the health care benefits for the employees beginning April 2018.
The unions then filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint arguing that the “employer’s 2018 discontinuance of the annual increases up to 5%—which resulted in a reduction of the existing level of health care benefits for employees—constitutes an unlawful unilateral change in terms and conditions in violation of Section 8(a)(5) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act.”
In his decision, Judge Goldman found the Post-Gazette had violated the NLRA and ordered the company to “reinstitute payments of annual increases to the Fund and make the Fund and employees whole by making all delinquent Fund contributions on behalf of those employees, including any additional amounts due the fund.”
As well, Judge Goldman ordered the company to post an appropriate informational notice to employees and distribute the information electronically.
“This is a big win for our members and all of the unions at the PG,” said Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Sector President Dan Wasser. “We have been in protracted negotiations with the company for a long time, and decent health and welfare benefits are a huge part of what we are trying to secure for our members. Not only did all of the union leaders work hard on this, but so did all the attorneys involved – Sector Counsel Richard Rosenblatt, Joe Pass and Marianne Oliver. It is times like these that reflect the true spirit of unity, dedication and perseverance of the labor movement. The members and leaders of all unions at the PG should be proud of all the work that went into this case. Sometimes we fail to give credit where credit is due, and I was not going to let that happen here everyone involved deserves to be recognized.”
Read the full decision in the attached pdf file.