Mikesell’s ordered to pay $239K in back-pay to workers

A federal judge has ordered Dayton’s Mikesell’s Potato Chip Co. to pay more than $239,000, plus interest, to former and current warehouse and driving employees, while honoring the terms of expired contracts.

The ruling comes nearly five years after the company declared an impasse in contract talks with two unions representing the workers.

Administrative Law Judge David Goldman wrote that a contract with Mikesell’s warehouse employees expired Oct. 26, 2012, while another contract covering the drivers expired Nov. 17 that same year.

“On Nov. 18, 2012, Mikesell’s announced that the parties were at a bargaining impasse over both units and that effective Nov. 19, 2012, it would unilaterally implement its bargaining proposals,” Goldman said in the ruling dated Friday.

The unions took issue with that. They filed an unfair labor practice charge, and in January 2014, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that “Mikesell’s unilateral implementation of its bargaining offers in the absence of impasse violated” the National Labor Relations Act.

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Union lawyers asked that the company “restore, honor and continue the terms of the expired collective-bargaining agreements,” the judge wrote, adding: “Mikesell’s declined to do so.”

That led to the company’s petition to a federal Court of Appeals, which denied the company’s request in December 2015.

It appears a battle over back-pay then began, involving the company, the unions and an NRLB region. More than three years after the contracts expired, Goldman wrote, “the respondent (Mikesell’s) contends that it had reached a third bargaining impasse with the union in negotiations, one not previously mentioned to the board or to the Court of Appeals, although it allegedly occurred June 13, 2013.”

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Wrote the judge: “The respondent is transparently seeking to ...  eliminate the order’s requirement that it restore the old (contract) terms and conditions and maintain them until it reaches agreement or impasse with the union.”

In ordering the back-pay, Goldman’s filing lists each employee by name to whom payment is due, along with how much is due.

The amount totals $239,888.61, “plus such additional back-pay and interest as has accrued until such time as the respondent (Mikesell’s) restores, honors and continues the terms of the collective-bargaining agreements with the warehouse and drivers units that expired on Oct. 26 and Nov. 17, 2012,” Goldman wrote.

A message seeking comment was left for Jennifer Asbrock, the Louisville, Ky. attorney who has represented the company.

Dayton attorney John Doll, who represented Teamsters Local 957 in the action, said he is confident the company will appeal the judge’s decision to the national NLRB. Goldman represents the first judicial level in that case.

“It’s been going on for some time,” Doll said.

Doll said about 30 to 34 workers are due back pay from the company. He called the process “devastating” to the workers, saying they are not wealthy individuals.

“All these appeals, they’re just having more and more money taken away from them,” Doll said.

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