The longtime chief of Crook County Fire & Rescue displayed “anti-union animus” in his dealings with employees, according to a judge’s ruling issued in a long-running labor dispute.
Julie Reading, an administrative law judge for the Employee Relations Board, agreed with the Crook County Firefighters Association on two of its three complaints, and with Chief Matt Smith and the district board on one of them.
“We determine that the Association has provided sufficient evidence of anti-union animus,” Reading wrote in her 28-page ruling.
Smith and the district’s board of directors have until next week to file objections to the ruling. If none is received, it’s likely the three-person state relations board will approve the order as written.
Steven Schuback, attorney for the district, said he can’t reveal whether the board will oppose aspects of the ruling.
Eleven months ago, the union filed a complaint with the relations board alleging anti-union sentiment on the part of Smith. The parties and Reading met in October during a three-day hearing in Prineville.
In Reading’s order issued this week, she found the district and Smith subjected union members to “unnecessary and intimidating” third-party investigations. The members included union officers Chad Grogan and Sam Scheideman, and the allegations against them were ultimately not sustained by the investigations. However, counseling notes were placed in their personnel files.
Reading’s ruling orders the district to email a notice of violation to all employees and remove the supervisory notes placed in the files of Grogan and Scheideman following their third-party investigations.
The ruling cites three documents written by Smith that Reading says display anti-union animus.
The first is a form letter by Smith written before the union was certified. In it, Smith indicates forming a union would cost employees money and compromise their freedom. The letter states no one should sign an authorization card without speaking to management.
“The tenor of the letter was one of warning and potential serious consequences of organizing,” the ruling reads.
The second document is an accusatory document written by Smith to the fire board after the union was formed stating union members were “spreading malicious gossip.”
The third is a proposal by Smith at the start of collective bargaining that took a “take it or leave it” approach, Reading wrote, in violation of department policy as well as good faith bargaining.
On Thursday, the fire board approved a 2 percent raise for Smith.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org