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National labor leaders weigh revising who is a 'supervisor'.

Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

Imagine an electrical workers' union with no journeyman linemen as members - banned from joining because they supervise apprentice workers.

It could happen, national labor leader Stewart Acuff said Tuesday in Eugene, if the National Labor Relations Board decides to expand who can be considered a "supervisor" as defined by federal labor law.

The revisions could disenfranchise millions of union-represented workers, Acuff told a crowd of about 100 - including several dozen Eugene Water & Electric Board workers out on strike - at a rally at the downtown federal courthouse.

The pending labor board decision has captured the attention of many mainstream politicians, including Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who plans to address the issue at a public rally in Portland on Thursday. Kulongoski and most of Oregon's congressional delegation - all but Republican Sen. Gordon Smith and Republican Rep. Greg Walden - have signed a petition urging the five-member labor board to hold public hearings on the issue before issuing a ruling.

Unlike other employees, supervisors do not have protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 to form and join unions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Hospital Association are among those urging the labor board to expand the definition of supervisor.

Acuff, national organizing director for the AFL-CIO union, said "supervisor" traditionally has meant workers who have the power to hire and fire others or settle grievances. A new, broader definition could apply to anyone who directs the work of others.

Four of the labor board's five members are President Bush appointees. Acuff charged that the current board "perfectly reflects the president's antipathy and amicus and hatred of workers and collective bargaining and unions."

Two of the three pending cases before the labor board, known collectively as the "Kentucky River" decisions, involve nurses. Debbie Lund, an RN at Sacred Heart Medical Center and vice president of the Oregon Nurses Association, said nurses at St. Charles Hospital in Bend already have rebuffed efforts there to reclassify "charge" nurses as supervisors.

In a statement read aloud at the rally, Oregon Rep. Peter DaFazio, D-Springfield, accused the labor board of trying "to turn back the clock on workers' rights and strengthen corporate power in the workplace."

Before the rally, Acuff spoke with EWEB workers on the picket line. At the rally, he called on EWEB to agree to binding arbitration as proposed by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 659.

EWEB and the union are scheduled to meet with a state mediator today in an effort to resolve the strike, now in its ninth day. Unresolved issues include health benefits, retroactive pay and Veterans Day as a paid holiday.
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Title Annotation:Business; Lawmakers warn that a change may affect union eligibility for millions
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 12, 2006
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