Shelton retaliated against city union, labor board rules

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

SHELTON — The city dealt directly with, and later retaliated against, four part-time employees who were in line to become full-time unionized highway department workers, according to a state labor board ruling.

The Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations, in a decision dated Dec. 27, found the city violated the Municipal Employee Relations Act in its dealing with Teamsters Union 145 and four part-time employees — Steven Nagy, Robert Sura, Carlos Jimenez and Jacob Martin — in its offer to give the four full-time positions in the highway department.

The board — acting Chair Wendella Battey and members Barbara Collins and alternate Ellen Carter — ruled that the city must “cease and desist from dealing directly with prospective employees for bargaining unit positions and conditions of employment and unlawfully retaliating against the union.”

“It took a while to get the decision we knew we were entitled to,” Teamsters Union 145 Secretary Treasurer Dennis Novak said.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said he would not appeal the decision.

“(The four individuals) would have been in the union over a year ago if they would have agreed to extend the probation,” Lauretti said. “The employees agreed to it, but the union official wouldn’t, so consequently they’ve gone through the year probation (so) we’re not gonna appeal. There’s no need to.”

Lauretti said, after the union intervention on the hirings, the four individuals chose to become contract employees, each signing a one-year contract with the city for the same terms and benefits as the union employees.

According to the decision, the city first offered full-time employment in the highway department to the four individuals with a probationary period of one year, which was longer than the normal six months, in May 2020.

The four individuals signed off on the deal, according to the decision, but Novak refused to sign, saying that the one-year probationary period was not part of the union contract, which calls for six months.

The city’s representative, Administrative Assistant Jack Bashar, the decision states, informed the union that the four would only be hired if the probationary period was lengthened. Without the necessary signatures, the extension of the job offers was rescinded, the decision states.

Novak’s rejection of the extended probation constituted protected union activity, the board ruled. In rescinding the offer, the city effectively engaged in retaliatory behavior, according to the ruling.

The union then stated the city reached out to at least one, if not all four individuals to work on a temporary basis — with the same hourly rate and job description that had been offered for the full-time positions, according to the ruling.

Novak, as stated in the decision, also said the city refused a request by Jiminez, Sura and Nagy to join the union and have dues deducted from their wages. Bashar, in his response to Novak, said since the full-time job offers were rescinded, so should the union membership applications.

The city has 21 days from the announcement of the decision to comply with the board’s ruling, which calls for the city to give all four a full-time maintainer II position, provide them with back pay retroactive to May 4, 2020, provide them with the necessary benefits and pay back union dues retroactive to May 4, 2020.

The state labor board found that the city violated labor law by “dealing with Nagy, Sura, Jiminez and Martin regarding the duration of the probationary period and retaliated against the union for engaging in protected activity.”

In the decision, it stated that the city claimed that it did not revoke the four full-time positions because these jobs did not exist, so it exercised its rights under the collective bargaining agreement to hire one or more as temporary workers.

“Based on the entire record before us, we find that the city violated the act,” the decision reads.