In April, the union was approached about a special operations supervisor (SOS) assigned to the Prosecutions office who was being unprofessional and generally making life miserable for the employees who worked there. The union contacted management and told them what was happening so they could take action.
However, three days later, the SOS held an all-hands meeting with Prosecutions employees and said, among other things, something to the effect of:
“It has come to my attention that one or some people talked to the union and had a problem with the way we talk to or treat you guys. If you have a problem with me, you talk to me or [redacted]. My door is always open.”SOS [redacted]
The employees present said the SOS said it with a coercive tone and inflection rather than sincerity that both options were available to the bargaining unit employees. The message received was that they should not be talking to the union.
The union alleged this to be an unfair labor practice — a “union bypass” — effectively bypassing the union and engaging directly with bargaining unit employees over a matter that was raised by the union regarding the conditions of employment in the Prosecutions office, and filed charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
Comments like this can have a chilling effect on employees, especially when some of the employees in this office had already discussed the issues with the union. As a result of the SOS’s actions, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the SOS.
In the months that followed, because of the behavior of the SOS originally raised by the employees and this unfair labor practice, Del Rio Sector permanently moved the SOS out of Prosecutions to another assignment in the sector. They then brought in a different SOS and another supervisor — both reasonable people with prior prosecutions experience — to fix the numerous issues that had developed in the office. They listened to the employees to figure out how to undo the problems and toxic environment, and it’s been reported that the office is running more smoothly now.
Last month, the union and agency signed a memorandum of understanding in which the agency acknowledged that they cannot bypass the union regarding the conditions of employment for the bargaining unit and that supervisors are not allowed to make comments that might pressure or coerce bargaining unit employees into not bringing their concerns to the union.
Ultimately, a great many of the concerns were resolved when the SOS was reassigned, and we appreciate Del Rio Sector investigating the matter and making changes to do what is best for the workforce and mission.