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Dollar General union vote hangs in limbo

Dollar General union vote hangs in limbo

Former manager pursues legal action after December firing

January 10th, 2018 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

The Dollar General sign is seen on one of the company's stores in Mid-Missouri.

Photo by News Tribune /Fulton Sun.

AUXVASSE, Mo. — More than a month since the controversial vote by employees of the Auxvasse Dollar General location to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, the vote's status is still in limbo.

Four of six employees at the location voted Dec. 8 to join the union. Days later, Dollar General Corp. filed objections to the vote with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming after votes were counted, two of the four people who voted "yes" told the company they wanted to change those votes.

"These employees shared that they felt unduly pressured into casting their votes for the union and provided details regarding the manner in which they were either promised money for their vote or feared retaliation," a Dollar General spokesperson said in a Dec. 15 statement.

Leonard Perez, director of Region 14 of the NLRB, said the NLRB had a hearing on the case Jan. 3.

"It was held before a hearing officer," Perez said Tuesday. "Both the employer and the union presented evidence for the hearing officer's consideration. The hearing officer will now write a report to me, saying what he's recommending to be done with the objections."

Perez said he expects the brief sometime next week, after which both parties will have two weeks to "take exception" to the report — filing any objections with Perez. He will consider the report, the exceptions, any briefs filed and the hearing transcripts before issuing a decision.

"(Auxvasse Dollar General employees) will either find out that the union represents them and the union can then begin its process of trying to negotiate, or they will revote," he said.

Dollar General and UFCW Local 655 will be able to appeal any ruling the NLRB regional office makes by filing a request for review with the NLRB's national office.

"We are confident they will make the appropriate judgment," Local 655 representative Collin Reischman said.

Filing a request for review doesn't guarantee the case will be reviewed, Perez said.

Fired up

Meanwhile, the former store manager of the Glasgow Dollar General said she is pursuing legal action.

Margeorie Nation said in December she was fired for asking about the union vote during a conference call with other store managers and higher-ups and posting an article about it on Facebook. At the time, Dollar General declined to comment on the circumstances around her firing.

"I didn't post on behalf of Dollar General, and I made it clear I wasn't 'for' unions — I was just looking for opinions," Nation said at the time.

Since then, she's found a new job and "lawyered up."

"And still no news from (Dollar General) on why I was terminated or that I was terminated at all," she said Tuesday.

Nation is being represented by Andrew Allen, an attorney with Alabama-based law firm Burke Harvey.

"I think she was wrongfully terminated," Allen said. "I fully expect her to be reinstated. It's clear her termination was in retaliation for posting (the article)."

While no lawsuits had been filed as of Tuesday, Allen said he intends to file an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. He said Nation's questions and post were, at most, a form of concerted activity — which is protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

Burke Harvey is representing another former Dollar General store manager from Alabama, who claims she was unfairly deprived of overtime pay. Burke Harvey is considering a collective action suit against Dollar General, Allen said.

"The terms and conditions of these people's employment are deplorable," he said.

The Alabama manager, who was not named in the Burke Harvey release, said she worked more than 90 hours a week doing custodial, cashier and stockroom work. Federal labor law requires several conditions be met before an employee is exempt from overtime pay, regardless of job title.

Allen said Dollar General's store managers don't meet those conditions.

"They've been mis-classified as exempt employees but the nature of their work is that of hourly employees," he said. "It's draconian."

This, he said, may be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

If Burke Harvey pursues the case, they'll be seeking both back pay for participating employees and injunctive relief in the form of a court order telling Dollar General comply to FLSA guidelines on overtime pay, Allen said.

Dollar General Corp. was contacted for comment but hadn't responded by Tuesday evening.