Michigan Local Mistreatment of Nonunion Worker Precluded Grievance Representation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Dist. of Columbia Circuit ruled Feb. 26 that because union stewards wrongfully prevented a nonunion postal employee from filing a grievance, Nat’l Ass’n of Letter Carriers Branch 3126 in Royal Oak, Mich., must allow the employee to proceed with the grievance and pay for him to be represented by his own attorney.

Enforcing an order issued by the Nat’l Labor Relations Bd., U.S. Circuit Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg (D.C. Cir., Reagan) ruled that NLRB was authorized to issue the order for attorneys’ fees. The court rejected the union’s argument that it could have represented employee Joe Pitlanish fairly and without bias: given the union stewards’ prior mistreatment of Pitlanish, it was within the board’s discretion to decide that an independent lawyer was the better strategy, the court said.

Pitlanish is a letter carrier for the post office in Troy, Mich. In 1997, he tried to file a grievance about the distribution of overtime opportunities, but the union stewards impeded his efforts. In particular, union steward Greg Swindall, who monitored the employer’s distribution of overtime and represented unit employees in overtime disputes, refused to file and process his grievance because he was not a member of the union. The court added that Swindall also referred to Pitlanish as “Scablanish.”

U.S. Circuit Judges A. Raymond Randolph (D.C. Cir., H.W. Bush) and David S. Tatel (D.C. Cir., Clinton) joined in the ruling.  Thomas N. Ciantra represented the union. James M. Oleske argued on behalf of the board. [BNA 3/4/02]