UE has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against FCi Federal, the private contractor that now operates the Nebraska Service Center in Lincoln for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), in response to the company’s suspension of three union leaders for their union activity, and failure to bargain in good faith.
Last Wednesday, October 14, FCi Federal imposed suspensions without pay on three leaders of the union at the service center, UE Local 808. Earlier that day, at 2:30 p.m, 27 workers who were off-duty and “off the clock” at the time, had assembled outside the office of site director June Glynn office to object to the company’s sudden unilateral change in their hours, which caused hardship for many workers.
The three workers who went into the director’s office spoke in behalf of their co-workers are the three workers who have been suspended: Zachary Knipe, Andrew Martens and Ashley Neukirch. All three are elected members of the union’s negotiating committee. They spoke courteously and respectfully to the manager, and contrary to the false claims issued by the company after the event, they were never “aggressive” and did not “threaten” nor “intimidate” the director nor anyone else. Knipe says that the entire meeting lasted two to three minutes, and states, “Andrew, Ashley and I were courteous and professional from start to finish. We were assertive, clear and matter-of-fact in our presentation of our grievance but never disrespectful.” However, he says that Glynn responded with a “rude and dismissive tone.”
Glynn did commit to providing a response to the union members by the end of the business day. However, that response, which came at about 5:30 p.m., was the unpaid suspension of the three spokespersons for the union in her earlier meeting.
The event that led to the workers’ visit to the director’s office was the company’s announcement to workers at around 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 14, that they would all be required to work two hours overtime on each of the following two days, October 15 and 16, but that because October 12 had been a holiday, they would not receive overtime premium pay.
Workers objected that this sudden change in their schedules would cause hardships in their arrangements for childcare, picking up children from school, and other aspects of people’s family and personal lives. In addition, because the workers are now represented by a union, the law requires that changes such as these must be negotiated with the union.
Workers voted to join UE by landslide margins in an election conducted by the NLRB on May 6 and 7. The workers, employed at the time by two contractors, voted for UE by 115 to 40 in the larger group, and 65 to 27 in the second group. But despite the overwhelming vote for the union in May, the employer has stalled bargaining and made inadequate offers.
Workers at the Nebraska Service Center process federal forms related to citizenship and immigration, the same kind of work that's also performed by UE Local 208 members at the Vermont Service Center in St. Albans and Local 1008 members in Laguna Niguel, California.