Labor board dismisses SPEEA lawsuits against Spirit

The National Labor Relations Board has dismissed two unfair labor practice charges brought by Spirit AeroSystems’ engineering and professional and technical union against the company.

The union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, plans to pull a third complaint and reissue it at a later time, said SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer.

SPEEA represents more than 3,000 Spirit employees in Wichita in two units.

The charges deal with appeals of performance evaluation ratings by union-represented employees and with grievance procedures in the termination of 15 employees.

“We are pleased that two out of three charges SPEAA has filed regarding this activity have now been dismissed by the NLRB,” Spirit AeroSystems spokesman Ken Evans said in an e-mail. “The facts are that we have followed the contractual process for represented employees, and have offered severance benefits and career transition services (for those who have been laid off).”

SPEEA’s legal staff is in discussion with the NLRB over its decisions, Brewer said.

The union has until Sept. 5 to appeal.

Both charges alleged Spirit failed to bargain in good faith. The first charge alleged that Spirit refused supervisors to be interviewed by the union during appeal meetings held when employees contest annual performance evaluation ratings.

In the past six months, about 80 bargaining unit employees have appealed their ratings, the findings from the NLRB said.

Spirit did not allow the union to question the employees’ immediate supervisors concerning the reason for the ratings, the findings said.

“The investigation failed to establish that (Spirit), by taking such a position, prevented the union from fully representing employees in contesting their evaluations,” the NLRB said in its decision.

Based on the information, there was not enough evidence that Spirit unlawfully interfered with the union in the representation of an employee, the findings said.

The second charge dismissed by the NLRB alleged that the company failed to follow an agreed-upon grievance procedure in the termination of 15 union-represented Spirit employees.

Both sides agreed to the presence of a first-line supervisor in grievance meetings, but the parties didn’t agree to what role the supervisor would have in the meetings, the NLRB said in its decision.

Before the meetings, Spirit told the union that the supervisor would be silent. But the union alleges that active participation by the supervisor was necessary and that the union must be allowed to ask the supervisor questions.

In later grievance meetings, supervisors did not attend because Spirit wouldn’t allow the union to question them about termination decisions, the NLRB said.

“The grievances have continued to be processed through the grievance procedure and have been settled or are awaiting arbitration,” the NLRB said in its findings. Spirit’s refusal to let the union question the supervisors or managers during the meetings “is neither a repudiation of the overall grievance procedure, a repudiation or unilateral change of the ... (contract) agreement in regard to the conduct of the ... meetings, or an unlawful refusal to provide the union with relevant information,” the findings said.

That Spirit did not want the meetings to become an investigation into its reasons for the terminations does not establish bad-faith bargaining, the findings said.