Former Precision Castparts worker gets $100k to leave

By DON McINTOSH, Staff Reporter

Pat Maloney expects to pay more in taxes this year than ever before, but he doesn't mind. "The government really did serve me like it should," he said.

In November, Maloney received $100,000 minus taxes from Portland-based Precision Castparts, in a settlement arranged by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

In 1995 and 1996, Maloney was an active participant in two unsuccessful campaigns by the United Steelworkers of America to unionize Precision Castparts Corp., now called PCC Structurals, Inc.

Then, on April 10, 1997, he was fired. The company claimed it canned him for harassing a wheelchair-bound co-worker. The NLRB found no merit to that claim, and agreed with Maloney and the union that he'd been illegally terminated in retaliation for his persistent support of the union.

Today, Maloney works at Boeing in Gresham and serves on the Executive Board of Machinists Lodge 63 and as a delegate to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council.

At the time he was fired, Maloney had worked for Precision more than 16 years, analyzing X-ray photographs of aerospace parts to make sure they had no flaws.

He had opposed an earlier union drive at the company in the 1970s. But when the union again tried to organize the company's 1,800 workers in 1995, Maloney knew which side he was on. He wore "Union Yes" buttons and hats, and pasted a giant Steelworkers sticker on his car. He distributed leaflets outside the plant and in the lunch room during breaks, and posted leaflets on employee bulletin boards.

When the election was held in July 1995, the union lost by a margin smaller than the number of challenged ballots. Rather than wait years for the government to resolve challenged ballots, the union started a new organizing campaign. In three weeks time, Maloney recalls, a majority of 1,175 employees signed cards authorizing the union, and the Steelworkers filed for a new election, which was held in October 1996.

The union lost after an aggressive anti-union campaign by the company. Unfair labor practice charges were filed by the union and the NLRB agreed that numerous violations of U.S. labor laws had been committed.

"There's no question in my mind that the illegal activity by the employer poisoned the results of the election," Maloney said. "There are very few people that have any doubt about that."

After a hearing in June 1998, a federal judge agreed with NLRB investigators that:

* Managers had watched union supporters at their work stations and followed them throughout the plant as they went to lunch, breaks - even to the restroom - listening to their conversations and interrupting them to ask if they were talking about the union.

* The company issued a series of rules prohibiting employees from discussing the union or posting or distributing literature, but enforced them only against pro-union employees. Union supporters were restricted to their work stations, while anti-union employees were allowed to roam freely to distribute anti-union literature and talk to employees.

* Anti-union workers used company copiers and distributed anti-union petitions on company time. The company held mandatory meetings at which employees were ordered not to sign union cards. The company promised employees a wage increase and improvements to their pension plan if they rejected the union, and threatened to close the plant and relocate to Richland, Wash., if they did choose the union.

* Managers told employees that if they voted to unionize, that they would never get a contract because the company would never bargain with the Steelworkers.

* They threatened union supporters with loss of promotion, discipline and termination if they continued to support the union. They even threatened employees with adverse consequences if they associated with Maloney.

* On Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, in January 1997, the company held anti-union rallies outside the Portland and Seattle offices of the National Labor Relations Board, attended by employees who were bused, clothed, fed, entertained, and paid eight hours regular time and four hours overtime for their attendance.

All of this was blatantly illegal, but the company faced almost no consequences for its lawbreaking. To settle the case with the NLRB, the company was ordered to post notices on the shop floor reporting the NLRB's findings. The board ordered back pay to one suspended employee, and $100 each to 1,200 employees who didn't agree to go to the MLK Day anti-union rallies. The NLRB also ordered Precision to reinstate and pay backpay to Maloney.

That last order it resisted. The company appealed to the NLRB in Washington, D.C., which upheld the judge's order. With only one avenue of appeal left, to a federal court of appeals, the company negotiated with Maloney a payment of $100,000 - on condition that he waive his right to reinstatement.

"It's like getting a $5 speeding ticket for murder," Maloney said. "They broke every law in the book and they got away with it."

January 5, 2001 issue

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