The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against the Harvard Coop Wednesday on behalf of Local 711 of the Retail Clerks International Association, charging the store with interfering with the rights of its employees.
The NLRB's charge was one of two setbacks that the Coop suffered in its conflict with the local over the drive of the union to enlist the Coop's employees. The store also lost a dispute with the union over which of the Coop's employees may cast ballots in the January 25 unionization vote.
The NLRB's complaint resulted from three charges made against the store by the union. The NLRB investigated and found evidence to support two of the accusations -- that the Coop maintained surveillance over union activity in the more and unlawfully reprimanded an employee for participating in it. The third charge, that the Coop fired an employee for his union activities, was not substantiated by the board.
As a result of the NLRB complaint a hearing has been set for December 20 in Boston. Warren H. Pyle, the union's attorney, said yesterday that an administrative judge from Washington D.C. will preside at the hearing and the NLRB's general conduce will prosecute.
If the Coop is found guilty, the judge will order the store to "cease and desist and to post a notice on the premises to that effect" Pyle said.
A memorandum issued last Monday by the regional director of the NLRB revealed that the Coop had conceded to Local 711's definition of the unit -- that is, which employees would be eligible for the union and therefore the vote in January.
The NLRB conducted hearings in November on which jobs the unit would include, and in the first hearings, compromise between the union and the Coop looked impossible. A binding decision by the NLRB seemed inevitable.
During the third hearing, on November 24, the Coop suddenly gave in, and the union and store reached a settlement strongly favoring the union. The memorandum Monday of the NLRB regional director stated that compromise.
Howard W. Davis, general manager of the Coop, said yesterday that he did not believe that the charges in the complaint are justified.
"We don't intend to interfere with them (the union)," Davis said. "We do object to them doing it (union activity) on store time."
According to Davis, the Coop gave in to the union's definition of the unit because a protracted dispute over it "was not in the interests of our employees." "It is not up to me to tell them to vote. I would hope that they would have confidence in our leadership."
Davis refused to predict the outcome of the unionization vote, but he said that the pro-union make up of the unit would not affect the vote substantially.
Pyle said yesterday, "The Coop caved in on most of the issues." He listed several areas of dispute in which the Coop gave in to the union:
*the exclusion of buyer's secretaries;
*the exclusion of employees working in the credit and sales audit departments;
*the inclusion of the employees in time departments (the optical department and the copy service);
*the inclusion of the cashiers' tellers (in the mezzanine).
The aim of the union was to have a unit of only sales people, Pyle said. "That is the NLRB's policy," he added.
Commenting on the January vote, Pyle said, "The union's very optimistic.
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