Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

May 15, 1998

DOES OREGON Supreme Court candidate Bob Tiernan owe the U.S. Department of Labor more official reports on his anti-union labor relations consulting business?

Tiernan, whose consulting service and law practice operate out of 415 N. State St. in Lake Oswego, filed a Labor Department report in March 1998 on activities that took place in 1995 in Grass Valley, Calif., northeast of Sacramento.

His filing of a report two months ago on labor relations consulting work that occurred three years earlier came about because John F. Williams, a researcher for Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 Business Manager Matt Walters, asked the U. S. Department of Labor for a copy of Tiernan's report. Williams, of Portland, asked the Labor Dept. to require Tiernan and his client, the Grass Valley Grocery Outlet, to file federal reports if they had not already done so.

Because they had not, the Labor Dept. requested their compliance with the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act.

ALONG WITH HIS REPORT, Tiernan sent a letter, dated March 17, 1998, in which he told a Labor Dept. investigator in San Francisco:

"I do not agree that my activities on behalf of Grass Valley Grocery Outlet fall within the meaning of Sec. 203 (b) of the LMRDA. However, I am willing to fill out the forms, LM-21 and LM-22, you provided and have enclosed them for your records. I have filled out these forms, to the best of my recollection, records, and understanding of the reporting requirements. Please allow me to explain why I do not believe my activities fall within Sec. 203 (b) of the LMRDA.

"In 1994, Grass Valley Grocery Outlet was owned by Tom and Debra Alvernaz. They paid me a flat fee of $500 (paid January of1994) to assist them with advice on personnel matters (hiring, firing, etc.) for 1993-94. I attended a store safety meeting, in November of 1994, where I spoke briefly about safety, employee rights, employer rights and what the NLRB does. There was no NLRB petition filed at that time, my comments were directed at what the law states, and providing the phone number of the NLRB. Tom and Debra Alevernaz (sic) did not enter into any agreement with me nor was I paid any money for my participation in the safety meeting.

"In 1995, Tom and Debra Alvernaz employed me to represent them in an NLRB hearing. However, I did not attend employee meetings, have contact with employees, visit the store, etc.

"In April of 1995, Dave and Brenda Cubitt purchased the Grass Valley store, and soon thereafter employed me to advise them on the impending NLRB election. Our agreement is attached for your review. During the time of the election, I did not attend any store meetings or address any employee groups on why or why not they should vote for or against the Union. My services to the Cubitts were limited to advising them on what they could or could not do under the law and assisting them on campaign related matters...

To the Cubitts in a letter dated May 9, 1995, Tiernan wrote: "It will all work out! As discussed, I will agree to do all work to take care of the current situation at your store in Grass Valley for a flat fee of $25,000 ($10,000 due as soon as possible, and $2,000 a month for the next 71/2 months). Monthly payments are due the first of the month starting July 1, 1995. If we are required to enter into negotiations, another $10,000 will be due.

"I will do all the work for the above retainer and fee; unless it requires going to court. I look forward to working with you. We will win!"

Tiernan's report said the Cubitts paid him a salary of $25,000 plus $3,770 in expenses.

DESPITE TIERNAN'S DEMURRER on whether the federal labor-management reports law applies to him, Local 290's Williams believes it does. Williams, who in 1983-84 worked on the staff of the Democratic-controlled U. S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee in Washington, D.C., told the NW Labor Press:

"Anti-union consultants and their clients are required to file reports if they directly attempt to persuade private sector workers, usually in face-to-face meetings, to reject a union...

"Employers are required to report those payments, too, as well as any other payments designed to influence their employees against unions...As you can see, Tiernan only admitted working for one employer and then only in 1995. If he performed any labor relations work at all for other clients in 1995, or direct 'persuader' anti-union work, involving direct contact with employees in any other years, then he still owes the U. S. Department of Labor more reports...

"Even 'indirect' anti-union activity, such as orchestrating an anti-union campaign from behind the scenes, is supposed to be reportable, but enforcement of this law is so lax, that as a matter of practice, the Dept. of Labor only acts on direct contact cases..."

PRESUMABLY, TIERNAN, who's listed in the US West Portland phone book both as a lawyer and as a labor relations consultant in suburban Lake Oswego, has had clients other than the Grass Valley store.

According to Michael Troy Moore, an organizer for the 17,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers Local 588 which covers northern California from its Roseville headquarters north of Sacramento, Tiernan testified five months ago that he represents 50 stores connected with Canned Foods Inc., as is the Grass Valley store.

Canned Foods Inc. is headquartered in Berkeley, Calif., and Tiernan has a connection with it, perhaps through family members. The corporation has contributed hundreds of dollars to Tiernan's campaigns.

Robert Reis Tiernan, 43, a native of California, lived in the San Francisco Bay Area before he moved to Oregon. His father, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, practices law in the Bay Area. His father-in-law, Edward B. Hart of Lake Oswego, a major figure in the West Coast retail industry, founded the 144-store Payless Drug Store chain. The mostly non-union operation has since gone through two ownership changes and is now the Rite-Aid chain. When Hart ran the Payless chain, he employed son-in-law Tiernan as its general counsel.

However, the next owner posted a sign in the chain's Salem store in January 1995 advising customers that Tiernan no longer worked for the firm. This was after Tiernan played a noisy role in promoting a 1994 ballot measure to cut pensions, wages and benefits of public employees, and Payless did not want to offend public-employee customers in Oregon's capital city.

MOORE SAID TIERNAN made his "50 stores" statement in testimony before a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge at a Sacramento hearing six months ago into challenges of votes cast in a 1995 NLRB election at the Grass Valley Grocery Outlet operated by Tiernan's clients, the Cubitts. Moore said although UFCW Local 588 had signed authorization cards from 24 out of 28 employees, the union lost the election by nine votes but challenged some of the votes cast against it. Prior to the election, Moore said Tiernan ran at him and pushed the union organizer out of the store, an incident Tiernan denied. Moore filed a civil suit against Tiernan but he told the NW Labor Press it was dropped because the union's attorneys lacked the time to pursue it. A ruling from the NLRB judge on the challenged votes is expected soon, Moore said.

Republican Tiernan served in the Oregon Legislature in the 1993 and '95 sessions at Salem, pushing an anti-worker, anti-union agenda and devoting much time to self-promotion in the media through such stunts as wearing a bulletproof vest because of alleged death threats. House District 24 voters tired of Tiernan's antics and in 1996 elected Democrat Richard Devlin to replace him.


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