E-ZPass Union Wins 15-Month Fight

A labor union has won a 15-month fight for the right to represent about 300 employees at an E-ZPass customer service center on Staten Island. The National Labor Relations Board announced late Wednesday that the employer's objections to the union election, held in May 2009, were without merit.

"It is well settled that representation elections are not lightly set aside," the ruling states. "The burden is on the objecting party to show by specific evidence that there has been prejudice to the election.... The employer has not met that burden in this case."


The workers, who answer phone calls and emails from drivers about their E-ZPass tags, began agitating for a union in late 2008 after their employer announced plans to base their pay on the number of calls or emails they answered each hour and the quality of their responses. They voted 144-126 in favor of forming a union on May 28, 2009, and chose the Communications Workers of America to represent them.


The employer -- a company called Affiliated Computer Services, which is now a division of the Xerox Corporation -- disputed the election results on a number of grounds. Normally those disputes would be heard by the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, but President Barack Obama could not get all of his appointees to the panel confirmed by the Senate until this June.


The ruling, dated August 27 but not released until Wednesday, was written by a three-member panel -- two Democrats and one Republican -- although the Republican dissented in part, supporting a new hearing for the case.


"We are hopeful now that  Xerox finally stops wasting money and starts respecting the employees right to bargain," said Tim Dubnau, Northeast organizing coordinator for the Communications Workers of America. “That's what the law says they have the right to do.” 


Since the election, the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board has substantiated about a dozen complaints from the union involving overtime and retaliatory transfers. Those regional board will now hear those cases to determine whether to press charges and seek back pay for the employees or other remedies.


Xerox, in a statement, wouldn't say whether it would continue to fight the case in the court system.

"We are aware of the recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board and are currently reviewing the decision to determine the next steps in the best interests of our employees and clients," spokesman Kevin Lightfoot said.