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West Warwick Housing Authority v. Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Kent

August 23, 2016

WEST WARWICK HOUSING AUTHORITY
v.
RHODE ISLAND STATE LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

         Kent County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Gregory P. Piccirilli, Esq.

          For Defendant: Margaret L. Hogan, Esq.

          DECISION

          GALLO, MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The matter before the Court is an appeal from a decision of the Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board (the Labor Board) involving an unfair labor practice dispute, Case No. ULP-6159, between the West Warwick Housing Authority (Appellant) and R.I. Council 94, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Local 2045 (the Union). The Appellant takes issue with the Labor Board's conclusion that it violated the State Labor Relations Act, G.L. 1956 § 28-7-13.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         This labor dispute was born in the events of April 9-10, 2015. At 9:41 p.m. on April 9, Appellant's attorney, Gregory Piccirilli (Attorney Piccirilli) sent out two emails. In the Matter of R.I. State Labor Relations Bd. and W. Warwick Housing Auth., Case No. ULP-6159, Decision and Order, at 2 (hereinafter Decision). One went to Ann Marie Petrozzi (Petrozzi), the Union Vice President; the other went to Alexis Lyman (Lyman), the Senior Staff Representative for the Union. Id. Both missives contained the same message: the recipient's presence was requested at 8:30 a.m. the next morning (April 10) for a meeting regarding a potential insubordination issue. Id.

         Petrozzi replied the next morning at 7:26 a.m. that she was off and would not be able to attend the meeting; shortly thereafter, Attorney Piccirilli replied that the meeting had to take place and explained that it required a Union representative for the employee concerned. Id. Just a few minutes later, Lyman also replied that she was unavailable at 8:30 a.m., but could make a 10:30 a.m. meeting. Attorney Piccirilli stood fast on his demand for a representative at 8:30 a.m. Id.

         Appellant called this 8:30 a.m. meeting because of a workplace dispute between a supervisor, Kathleen Fagan (Fagan), and Rose Marie Coates (Coates), who was employed by Appellant as a Receptionist and Acting Housing Specialist for approximately three years. Id. Coates was not informed of the contemplated meeting until she arrived at work on the morning of April 10 and was confronted by Attorney Piccirilli. Id. She asked Attorney Piccirilli if the meeting could lead to discipline. Id. Upon his affirmative response, she requested Lyman as her Union representative. Id. at 3.

         Attorney Piccirilli, aware of Lyman's inability to attend the meeting at 8:30 a.m., rejected her request. Id. He told Coates that he had arranged for Shawn Riley (Riley), the Union President, to attend instead. Id. Riley did not, however, show up for the meeting; instead, Attorney Piccirilli directed another employee and Union member, Andrew Nestor (Nestor), to attend the meeting. Id. Nestor is neither a Union representative nor an officer. Id. Coates reiterated her desire to have Lyman serve as her Union representative. Id. Before she could complete her reiteration of her rights, though, Attorney Piccirilli informed her that she was suspended, with further information regarding discipline to follow by letter. Id.

         The Union then filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Labor Board. Following briefing and a hearing, the Labor Board concluded that Coates was a member of the bargaining unit represented by the Union, that a valid collective bargaining agreement was in place, and that Coates's Weingarten[1] rights were violated by Attorney Piccirilli's actions on behalf of Appellant. Id. at 14. It held that Appellant committed unfair labor practices in violation of §§ 28-7-13(3) and 28-7-13(10) by: (1) refusing to allow Coates adequate representation at the meeting she reasonably believed could lead to discipline; (2) interfering with the Union's administration by dictating the presence of another employee who was not a Union representative or officer; and (3) when it suspended Coates in response to her asserting her Weingarten rights. Appellant takes issue with all these conclusions.

         II

         Standard ...


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