An arbitrator recently ruled that AEP’s action to transfer employees represented by another union from one plant to another plant to perform UWUA members’ work violated Local 492’s contractual rights.
UWUA Local 492 represents 110 workers at the AEP Kentucky Power Company Mitchell Plant in West Virginia. AEP also operates the Cook Coal Terminal (CCT) in Illinois. CCT’s employees are represented by Mine Workers Local 2463.
In 2021, there was a fire at the CCT which caused a partial closure of the facility. As a result, a number of CCT employees were without work. AEP-CCT secretly entered into an agreement with the Mine Workers Union to transfer CCT employees to the Local 492-represented Mitchell Plant.
This agreement between AEP-CCT and the Mine Workers was negotiated without notice, bargaining or knowledge of UWUA Local 492. Even the management at the Mitchell Plant was kept in the dark.
Over the next six months, the 10 transferred employees worked about 8,000 hours at the Mitchell Plant, 3,000 of which were overtime. The transferred workers performed Local 492’s bargaining unit work under the supervision of the Mitchell Plant’s management. The company’s actions cost UWUA Local 492 members hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages.
Despite the delay tactics, the company will ultimately have to bargain a resolution. Our contract is very clear on the matter.
Local 492 filed a grievance over the transferred employees’ inclusion in the bargaining unit represented by Local 492 while continuing to be represented by the Mine Workers. Local 492 also filed an unfair labor practice charge against AEP-Kentucky Power.
After an arbitration in West Virginia on the grievance, Arbitrator Matthew Franckiewicz granted Local 492’s grievance finding that bringing in AEP employees from another plant to work side-by-side with UWUA members, as members of a different union and working under a different contract, violated Local 492’s contract.
The arbitrator retained jurisdiction on the remedy issue, but before the parties could go back to the arbitrator, AEP filed suit in federal court seeking to vacate the award. Local 492 filed a grievance against AEP Kentucky Power because the lawsuit violates Local 492 contract’s grievance procedure which guarantees that arbitration awards are final and binding on the parties. That grievance is pending.
In the meantime, AEP Kentucky Power recently hired six new workers for the Mitchell plant’s coal yard, who are now members of Local 492, and Local 492 President Josh Gramlich is confident the union will prevail. “Despite the delay tactics, the company will ultimately have to bargain a resolution. Our contract is very clear on the matter.”