Colorado Locals Cited for Picket Misconduct

National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge Thomas Michael Patton issued Aug. 2 findings of labor law violations stemming from allegations of picket line misconduct by the United Steelworkers of Am. in a Oct.  1997 strike against  Rocky Mountain Steel Mills, Inc., formerly CF&I Steel, in Pueblo, Colo. Patton recommended that NLRB order the USWA and Locals 2102 and 3267 to cease and desist from misconduct at RMSM, including threatening employees and others entering or leaving the facilities and other misconduct as described in some 38 violations alleged by RMSM.

“The record shows that the union had knowledge of the misconduct [at] the picket line,” Patton wrote. “[I]dentified [union] agents were…observers of misconduct and in some cases, personally participated in the misconduct.”  According to Patton, during the strike, union agents and members placed nails or other objects on the road leading to and from the facility and otherwise blocked entry into the facility.

Patton also found that union members threw rocks, eggs, liquids, and other objects at people and vehicles as they entered or left the mill, and damaged or threatened to damage vehicles at the facility. He further found that pickets, mirrors and lights were used to interfere with drivers’ ability to see as they entered or left the mill site. He also said that strikers spat on, struck, kicked, scratched and touched vehicles of working employees and managers.

“The union did not effectively control, repudiate, or disavow any of the picket line misconduct,” Patton wrote. The only actions taken by the union were to distribute, post, and read at union meetings written instructions, to post state court injunctions orders, and to post an NLRB notice to employees and members, Patton found.

Importantly, Patton said that union picket captains always were present on the picket line.  “Their identities cannot be established because the union chose to shred records that identified the designated picket captains and thereby prevented their being called as witnesses,” he said. “Under these circumstances, it is particularly appropriate that the union should be charged with knowledge of the misconduct at the time it occurred.”

“This decision puts to rest any questions as to who the real lawbreakers were in this labor dispute,” said Vicki Tagliafico, spokeswoman for RMSM, which is a subsidiary of Oregon Steel Mills, Inc. “The kind of conduct described in this decision is indefensible. No one should be forced to endure this kind of harassment in order to go to work.”  [BNA 8/9/00]