Hearing today on union election

The National Labor Relations Board plans a hearing today in Pasco over objections by a labor union to a unionization election last month by workers at a fruit packing company.

United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1439 has filed charges with the NLRB regional office in Seattle against Douglas Fruit Co. of Pasco, citing instances of what it contends were violations of the National Labor Relations Act by the company leading up to a vote to unionize.

Workers voted April 8 against joining the union -- the second attempt by nonmanagement workers at the plant to organize. In charges Local 1439 filed with the NLRB, it alleged the company attempted to influence workers to vote against joining the union.

An NLRB hearing officer will have a post-election objections hearing starting at 9 a.m. at Columbia Basin College, said Richard Ahearn, NLRB regional director. He didn't have the exact location of the hearing, and it wasn't known how long it would last.

A hearing officer typically may take testimony from workers and management or representatives of a company. He said the hearing officer then could take up to six weeks to decide if the conduct of the company violated NLRB rules.

If the officer makes that determination, the outcome of the election would be thrown out and a new one held.

The Seattle regional office serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The region usually sees no more than 15 post-election objection hearings in a year, Ahearn said.

Employers under the National Labor Relations Act are forbidden from interfering with, restraining or coercing employees "in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor union for collective-bargaining purposes."

Similarly, labor organizations are forbidden from restraining or coercing employees, according to the NLRB.