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Economy & Business

Giant Eagle Files Charges Against Labor Union After Workers Ask For Full-Time Positions

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA
Giant Eagle employees Byron Gramby (left) and Stephanie Fellow (center) listen while Pastor Ken Love addresses the media at a press conference outside the South Side Giant Eagle on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Giant Eagle has filed charges against a union representing some of its employees, saying it violated its contract when part-time employees, who said they were being overscheduled, asked for the creation of full-time positions. 

The grocery store chain is sparring with United Food and Commercial Workers local union 23, which represents 13,000 workers. The charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleges the union repudiated or modified its contract, coerced employees and refused to bargain in good faith.

The company declined to provide details about the allegations, but in a statement clarified the charges have been filed against the union and not individual workers.

Giant Eagle employee Stephanie Fello said it’s one in the same.

“We are the union,” she said as she was cheered on at a press conference outside the South Side Giant Eagle Tuesday.

Fello has worked at Giant Eagle part-time for more than six years. She said she and seven other workers in the hot foods department approached management in late January asking that more full-time positions be created in the department, because part-time workers were routinely being over-scheduled. 

“We took advantage of the open door policy," she said. "We went to our manager’s office, we suggested that he make us full-time, they listened to us, they did create two full-time positions, but also they’re suing us."

UFCW local 23 organizing director Richard Granger said multiple part-time employees had worked 40 or more hours per week for "weeks and weeks," but without full-time status they weren't eligible for increased benefits. 

According to a copy of Giant Eagle’s “open door policy” provided by the union, the policy can be applied when employees feel they are “experiencing inappropriate working conditions” and that the policy “means that we would like to help you resolve your issues … and there will be no retaliation.”

A copy of the NLRB charges, also provided by the union, allege that the union “refused to bargain in good faith by unilaterally circumventing the contractual Grievance Procedure” and “unilaterally and surreptitiously” recorded the Jan. 23 meeting in question and posted the video on Facebook.

Granger said he suspects that is in reference to a post made on a secret Facebook group for Giant Eagle employees, and that if the company was monitoring that group, it would “constitute unlawful surveillance of their workforce.”

Fello said, after the meeting, management did agree to create two more full-time positions in the hot foods department, but that those positions have not yet been filled.