Narricot saga takes twist

Published 10:43 am Saturday, June 19, 2010

BOYKINS—A ruling Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court could have an effect on an ongoing labor dispute between Narricot Industries and a union.

In the case New Process Steel v. NLRB, the court ruled 5-4 that the National Labor Relations Board, which is normally comprised of five members, needed at least three members to make decisions.

The NLRB has four members, but political squabbling over appointments forced it to run for more than two years with only two members.

During that timeframe, the board made decisions on hundreds of cases. In January 2009, the board affirmed a May 6, 2008, decision by Administrative Law Judge Margaret Brakebusch that Narricot violated federal labor laws when supervisors promised employees increased benefits and wages if they withdrew their union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Carpenters Industrial Council, Local No. 2316.

Narricot had reportedly appealed Brakebusch’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond in April 2009.

James Powell, an attorney with the Greensboro, N.C., law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, which is representing Narricot, was not available for comment Thursday. A secretary with the firm confirmed that other attorneys at the law firm were discussing the impact of the Supreme Court decision.

Brakebusch ruled Narricot managers unlawfully solicited employees to sign a petition to oust the union, encouraged employees to withdraw their union membership and helped employees circulate a petition to oust the union. The law judge found that after Sept. 29, 2007, Narricot refused to bargain with or recognize the union, and unilaterally changed wages, 401K and health and welfare plans, holidays and other conditions of its employees.

The National Labor Relations Board affirmed Brakebusch’s rulings on Jan. 30, 2009.

“When an employer engages in conduct designed to undermine support for the union, and to impermissibly assist a decertification effort, the decertification petition will be found tainted and will not provide the employer with a basis for withdrawing recognition (of the union),” the NLRB said at the time.

Narricot manufactures and dyes textile fabrics used to make vehicle seatbelts. The company’s factory in Boykins has been in operation since the early 1960s, and the union has been representing its production and maintenance employees since 1976. The union also represents employees at a satellite facility in Murfreesboro, N.C.