A case of bad-faith bargaining involving five southeastern Michigan beer distributors and their union employees has been concluded after more than a decade with workers sharing in a $41-million payment. It is one of the largest back pay awards the National Labor Relations Board has ever ordered. Some 2,000 employees will share the award with the individual awards ranging from $1.50 to a $282,000 award for back pay made to one employee. That person says he still suffers medical problems from work he should not have been made to do.

Hubert Distributors paid out $10.2 million to members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1038 under the NLRB award. The NLRB said in a news release that the case revolved around five companies: Don Lee Distributors Inc. in Sterling Heights, Powers Distributing Co. in Lake Orion, Eastown Distributors Co. in Highland Park, Oak Distributing Co. in Flint and Hubert — and an illegal pact they made for negotiating with the union.

After a period of negotiations, each employer would declare an impasse and impose a new contract with what the NLRB described as “substantially lower income and reduced benefits for employees, particularly the drivers.” There appears to have been a plan to “bust the union.” The union filed charges of bad-faith bargaining and sought back pay from April 1991 through June 1998. A subsequent investigation uncovered the illegal mutual aid pact between the companies. An administrative law judge ruled on the Teamsters’ behalf and the appeal by the employers failed. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the employers’ appeal in 1999.

All the distributors – other than Hubert – agreed to settlement terms six years ago, and much of the $41 million has been paid out in the intervening years. The NLRB said Hubert continued to litigate the methodology for determining payment. Once Hubert’s last appeal failed in 2006, the agency moved to locate the 300 workers left to be covered and set payments, which were concluded by August of this year. The NLRB closed the books on the case in September.

Source: Free Press

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