Labor board asks court to reinstate striking Daycon workers pending inquiry

By Amanda Becker
Capital Business Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 2011; 5:49 PM

The government agency charged with investigating unfair labor practices has asked a federal judge to compel a Washington area janitorial supply manufacturer to rehire its striking workers, pending the outcome of an inquiry into whether the company unfairly ended the contract negotiations that led to the strike.

The National Labor Relations Board's request for an injunction against Upper Marlboro-based Daycon Products will be the subject of a Jan. 20 hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. If the request is granted, Daycon will have to reinstate the remaining striking workers, potentially imperiling the jobs of those who have replaced them.

"Generally, if the court orders strikers to be reinstated, that could present a problem for the company," said Dannie Fogleman, an employment litigation specialist with Ford & Harrison, which is not involved in the case.

As many as 30 employees of privately owned-and-operated Daycon, which reports annual revenue in excess of $500,000, have been on strike since late April. The two sides have been tussling over a variety of contract matters, including the company's desire to move to a performance-based wage system, since late 2009.

The union claimed that management improperly walked away from the bargaining table, and filed a complaint with the NLRB asking the agency to investigate the company's actions.

In a court filing, the company said talks had reached an impasse and it denied acting improperly.

At issue are the events that occurred right before the strike. The union presented a proposal to the company during an informal meeting at a restaurant in the District in early April, according to NLRB testimony. At the time, Daycon attorney Jay P. Krupin of Epstein Becker & Green said his client would "crunch the numbers" and get back to the union the next week, testimony shows.

But the union said it did not receive a response from Daycon's legal team and arrived at a negotiation session with a federal mediator on April 22 with further revisions. At that point, company leadership requested a caucus to discuss the details but did not return, filings show.

"We were prepared to bargain around the clock, and they basically told us they were going down the hall to crunch some numbers," said union representative Doug Webber, who was present for the negotiations. "We found out later they'd left the building, never informed us, never informed the federal mediator, and later they declared an impasse."

Daycon's president, John Poole, did not respond to a request for comment. Attorneys at Epstein Becker & Green declined to discuss the matter.

In its request for an injunction, the NLRB said that since the union is likely to prevail in its complaint, the workers should be returned to their jobs as soon as possible.

"Granting the temporary injunctive relief requested . . . will cause no undue harm . . . because [Daycon] will merely be required to do what it is already legally obligated to do, to cease and desist from committing unfair labor practices and to bargain in good faith," the board argued in its request to the court.

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