Election-related charge that Guild violated rights is rejected


Federal authorities last week dismissed a claim that the Guild violated the rights of hundreds of its members when its independent Local Elections Committee asked that Consumer Reports not allow its company email system to be used for a so-called digital debate ahead of last fall’s leadership election.

A Consumer Reports Guild member, Jeff Blyskal, filed an unfair practice charge with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 26 accusing the Guild of restraining his rights and those of more than 300 of his co-workers to engage in “concerted activity to fully inform ourselves in choosing our Guild leadership….”

Blyskal, who was not affiliated with either of the two opposing slates of candidates seeking Guild office, accused the Guild of “causing my employer to prohibit use of its email system for an email debate I tried to arrange between the two presidential candidates in a competitive Guild Local election.” His charge made no mention of the Local Elections Committee, the entity that communicated with Consumer Reports about the debate.

In a letter urging the Guild’s Jan. 26 general membership meeting to set aside the election results, Blyskal noted that the Guild was being investigated by the NLRB. His letter did not mention that it was his charge that triggered the investigation or that the NLRB investigates all unfair labor practice charges. In a Feb. 27 letter that was received on Monday, the agency’s Manhattan regional office responded to Blyskal’s charge.

“The investigation does not support your allegation that the Union violated the Act,” NLRB Regional Director Karen Fernbach said in dismissing the charge.

Noting that union elections are not governed by the National Labor Relations Act, Fernbach acknowledged that Blyskal had a right under the Act to “educate the employees in the unit regarding the views of the presidential candidates.” But she said the Guild’s recommendation that the company not use its email system for such a debate “does not constitute restraint or coercion” regarding employees’ rights.

In late October, within a week of the start of a 15-day balloting period in the election between candidate slates led by Guild President Bill O’Meara and New York Times Unit Chair Grant Glickson, Blyskal proposed a “digital debate” in which he, as moderator, would email questions to both presidential candidates who would then issue written responses accessible to all Consumer Reports Guild members on the company’s email system. In response, O’Meara suggested a live debate, but Blyskal rejected the offer.

The Guild’s Local Elections Committee – consisting of five members who were not affiliated with either campaign, and an outside Guild counsel who served as adviser – asked Consumer Reports not to allow the digital debate on its email system because of the risk that employer involvement in a union election could result in a court ordering a costly rerun. Shortly thereafter, Consumer Reports declared that it would not permit the use of its email system for the debate, citing the advice of its own legal counsel.

O’Meara and all but one of the members of his slate won the election.

In addition to the NLRB charge, Blyskal filed six challenges to the election, which the Local Elections Committee rejected. He appealed to the Local’s Representative Assembly on Jan. 25 and to the Jan. 26 membership meeting, neither of which could consider the matter because of the lack of a quorum. He currently has an appeal pending at the Guild’s parent union, the Communications Workers of America.

Glickson, who also challenged the election outcome and appealed to RA and membership meetings that lacked quorums, announced last week that he was dropping any further attempt at challenging the outcome of the election.

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