Union files charges with labor board over outsourcing at GE Appliance Park
The union representing about 4,000 workers at GE Appliance Park has asked the National Labor Relations Board to investigate whether GE Appliances violated federal labor law earlier this year by outsourcing the factory’s warehouse operation, a move that affected about 200 union workers.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The union representing about 4,000 workers at GE Appliance Park has asked the National Labor Relations Board to investigate whether GE Appliances violated federal labor law earlier this year by outsourcing the factory’s warehouse operation, a move that affected about 200 union workers.
Workers at the warehouse, one of several buildings on the sprawling Appliance Park campus, manage the inventory of finished products and get them onto truck beds or train cars for delivery to customers.
By outsourcing the operation, GE Appliances failed to “bargain in good faith” with the IUE-CWA Local 83-761 as required by law, according to a pair of "charges" the union filed with the NLRB on March 16.
The outsourcing happened in January, but no warehouse workers were laid off because they were able to obtain other jobs at Appliance Park, GE Appliances spokeswoman Kim Freeman said.
In the charges filed with NLRB, the IUE-CWA names Haier U.S. Appliance Solution, Inc. and two companies to whom the warehouse work was allegedly subcontracted, Dart Logistics Services and Quant US Corp. WDRB obtained copies of the documents under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Qingdao Haier, a Chinese firm, bought Louisville-based GE Appliances last year in a $5.6 billion deal.
Freeman said GE Appliances is aware of the union’s charges, and the company "will be responding to them per the normal process steps required." She declined to comment further.
Dana Crittendon, president of IUE-CWA Local 83-761, declined to comment Thursday.
Neither Dart Logistics nor Quant responded to inquiries.
If successful, the union could eventually get the jobs reinstated, perhaps with back-pay, said David Suetholz, a Louisville attorney who represents unions but is not involved in the case.
"If there is evidence there is anti-union animus that motivated this subcontracting – essentially, that they wanted to get rid of the union and stop bargaining with the workers in the warehouse – then Haier is going to have serious problems," Suetholz said.
But first, the NLRB will investigate the union’s allegations and decide whether a case is warranted, Suetholz said.
If the agency takes up the case, an administrative law judge would oversee a trial-like procedure, he said.
One of the more prominent NLRB cases occurred in 2011 when the agency charged Boeing Co. with retaliating against its machinist union workers in Washington by opening a new airplane factory in South Carolina. The NLRB ultimately dropped the case.
GE Appliances management said last year that the warehouse would be better run by a third-party company that specializes in logistics because its performance under the company's own workforce was dismal.
GE Appliances first notified workers of the outsourcing plan in April, a decision Crittendon called “devastating” at the time.
Then, after months of negotiations with the union, the company said in August that it would follow through with the outsourcing plan.
The warehouse’s union workforce did not sufficiently improve its efficiency during the negotiating period, called “decision bargaining,” Freeman said in August.
"They have failed to meet their key metrics" in areas like speed, cost and the rate of products that incur accidental damage, she said.