MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Laborer’s Local 814 – which represents 1,600-plus employees at WVU Medicine’s Ruby memorial Hospital – is facing charter revocation by Laborers International Union of North America.
LiUNA cites the West Virginia’s right-to-work law, passed in 2016, as one factor among several contributing to internal problems at the local.
This is according to documents obtained by MetroNews and shared with the Dominion Post on Friday.
And the disruption comes at contract negotiations with WVUM are expected to begin in mid- to late October.
The Dominion Post reported on Aug. 28 that LiUNA had apparently removed the executive officers and board members of the local. WVU Medicine conformed it had learned of that via email.
According to the documents, on Aug. 22, LiUNA General President sent local members a letter including a report and recommendation of a Special Hearing Panel formed to consider on June 25 an order to show cause why the local’s charter should not be revoked. On Aug. 11, the board approved and adopted the panel’s findings and recommendations.
Based on other, undated documents, it appears that the revocation may be delayed for 60 days from Aug. 11.
The panel noted that LiUNA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office recommended on April 4 that the charter be revoked. Despite the number of members, the local couldn’t afford full time representation “and is under additional pressure because of West Virginia’s right-to-work law.”
The panel said a 2016 election of officers was vacated and a partial rerun election was held in 2018. Officers then filed charges and counter-charges against each other, “leaving the Local Union in disarray.”
LiUNA held a hearing on the topic June 25. As previously reported, LiUNA representatives visited the union office Aug. 7-9.
The panel said “There are sharp and debilitating divisions among the members and officers,” but all who attended the hearing opposed revocation. They didn’t believe they could function independently and might leave them without collective bargaining representation.
The panel deferred revocation for 60 days and placed the local in trusteeship, allowing the regional office time to consider what to do.
LiUNA has not responded to question sent at its direction on Aug. 28, despite repeated email and phone requests, or to questions sent Friday upon receipt of the documents. Strategic Communications Director Lisa Martin said Wednesday and Thursday she had to send the questions “upstairs” and had not received answers. She didn’t answer her phone on Friday.
The union hall on Collins Ferry Road was dark and unoccupied on Friday. Its Facebook page remains up but all posts have been deleted.
However, a post by a member saved by The Dominion Post on Aug. 29 gives some additional insight into the local’s troubles. The post was put up just after the June 25 hearing.
The member explained that the charter makes the local part of LiUNA; if revoked, it wouldn’t make them non-union, but simply not part of LiUNA. They would be independent and free to join another international.
“We were told that the reason they wanted to remove our charter was because our local was seen as being in disarray (it is not) because of multiple charges filed by both current and former members.”
At the hearing, the member said, the panel indicated the reasons “they feel our charter should be taken away all boiled down to money, with West Virginia being a right-to-work state, and with the dues amount that they receive from us (not as much as say, a construction local) they feel that they will have to put more money into the local than they will receive, therefore our charter should be revoked and we would be free to join another international or become our own independent local.”
The member concluded, “Our local has faithfully done our part, paid our dues, for many, many years, but now that right to work comes along they just want to do away with us rather than fight for us.”
Mark Frick, WVU Medicine director of Human Resources said in an email exchange that Local 814’s contract expires on Dec. 31. Negotiations generally commence mid- to late October. (The last negations for a three-year contract occurred in 2016.)
Frick said WVUM had no additional information about occurrences at the local or abut who might be conducting the pending negotiations.
This report will be updated if LiUNA supplies answers to questions.