Workers had approached IBEF about organizing the plant because of concerns about declining wages and benefits.
Putting in a union at a La-Z-Boy plant is never easy as the tactics used the last time an effort was made at the Neosho plant. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that the company used unfair labor practices during its anti-union efforts. The following information was included in the Dec. 7, 2004, Turner Report:
A federal appeals court decision issued this morning cited La-Z-Boy of Neosho for unfair labor practices designed to discourage union organizing.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit partially backed a decision made earlier by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which said the company unfairly disciplined two employees, John Phillips and Klint Guinn, during a union organizing drive.
The appeals court agreed with the NLRB as far as Phillips was concerned, but said that Guinn had not been unlawfully disciplined.
The Phillips incident occurred on June 16, 2000, when Phillips, a parts inspector, was called to a meeting with supervisors Dave Harris and Wayne Allen. According to the court ruling, they told Phillips that La-Z-Boy had received a complaint from another employee "alleging that Phillips had threatened to reject products from the employee, thereby negatively affecting that employee's pay, if the employee failed to sign a union authorization card."
Phillips said he had not made that threat. Harris testified he and Allen had warned Phillips about a company policy against union solicitation during work hours and then excused him.
Harris's version did not jibe with Phillips' recollections. He said that Harris did not just give him a simple reminder, but told him to "consider this your verbal warning."
The supervisors also created a written record of the conversation, according to the court decision, and e-mailed it to the director of human resources to put in Phillips' file.
The administrative law judge for the NLRB who investigated the case found the e-mails documenting the meetings that were put in Phillips' file and further said the company took that step to discourage union activity.
The judge also found that Phillips had never threatened the other employee, so he determined the company had no justification for the discipline and could not show that it would have done the same thing if Phillips had not been involved with the union.
The second incident involved Guinn, a parts picker, who claimed he was unfairly disciplined for not telling a supervisor he would be gone on Friday, Aug. 11, 2000.
The judge decided in Guinn's favor partially relying on information about tactics La-Z-Boy officials had used in the past to discourage union organizing and noted that Guinn had been "treated differently" from another employee, who was not involved in union activity, but who had committed the same transgression.
Though the NRLB said that Guinn was disciplined solely because of his union activity, the appellate court said it could not be determined that was the sole reason.