By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Kathy Smith, one of the fired employees still fighting to win her job back, says she is overwhelmed by the effort expended by the NLRB on the case and is waiting for a courtroom showdown with the company and union.
"This is the time that we have been waiting for," Smith says. "For [the company and union], it doesn't get any better. It just gets worse."
Soon after the NLRB broadened its complaint, another U S West Direct employee filed new NLRB charges against the company and union, alleging that union officials received preferential treatment from the company "in the processing and distribution of accounts, whereby said union agents receive commissions, assignments and other economic benefits and rewards not available to other bargaining unit employees."
In her written complaint, the employee also charges that, in the course of its in-house investigation into the situation, U S West Direct improperly interrogated her without informing her of her legal rights or allowing her representation while she was being questioned by a company-hired attorney.
Garner says the new allegations will also be investigated. "There is a continuation [of the investigation], and it will expand if we find merit," Garner says.
At least one other employee has filed a discrimination complaint with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, contending that the company discriminates against women employees.
"We do have an open case, I can confirm that," says Joseph Franco of the OFCCP's Phoenix office. The agency, however, does not discuss pending cases in detail, he says.
Meanwhile, Kristin Hart, a Pacific Bell Yellow Pages saleswoman who unsuccessfully challenged Pusateri for the top local post in the June election, says she is continuing to press for a Department of Labor investigation into alleged election irregularities.
Hart contends that the local violated its constitution while conducting the election by failing to give members proper notice of nominating procedures, failing to make sure all eligible members received ballots and blocking opposition candidates from communicating with members.
She also contends that Pusateri and Ortega improperly used union resources and money to campaign for their offices, and says she would like to have the union books audited and the election results thrown out.
The Department of Labor, by policy, does not comment on whether it has formally opened an investigation into a union.