Monday, April 1, 2013

Star Tickets employee files unfair labor charge, claims she was fired for union organizing


Star Tickets Union protest firing of worker
Enlarge Former Star Tickets employee Deirdre Cunningham, center, is surrounded by union protestors on Monday, April 1 outside the Start Tickets office building at 620 Century Avenue SW. Cunningham was fired from Star Tickets on Tuesday, March 26. "I was standing up for myself and my fellow workers," Cunningham said, "they consider that a bad thing." (Emily Zoladz | Star Tickets Union protest firing of worker gallery (6 photos)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — An 8-year employee with the Star Tickets call center in Grand Rapids has filed an unfair labor practice charge against her former employer, who she claims fired her last week for helping organize the office into a union.
Deirdre Cunningham filed the charge with the National Labor Relations Board office in Grand Rapids on March 27, a day after she was allegedly fired from her job as a client service representative with Star Tickets.
Cunningham was instrumental in helping organize employees at the national ticketing agency’s Grand Rapids office into a bargaining unit that was certified by the NLRB on March 25. The certification followed a vote to unionize with the Industrial Workers of the World on March 6.
On Jan. 23, the I.W.W. filed paperwork with the NLRB to create a bargaining unit at the call center. Calling the work environment “untenable,” the union said employees were demanding a reduction in workload and a grievance procedure.
Of the 13 eligible employees, seven voted for representation, and six voted against. One challenged ballot was ultimately disregarded by both parties, according to the NLRB.
Cunningham said she was personally fired by Star Tickets CEO Jack Krasula on March 26, the day after the union was certified.
“He told me, basically, that I have a bad attitude,” she said. “I’ve been questioning the way things have been done and trying to fight for less to do.” In January, Cunningham told MLive that “over the years, more and more has been added to our roles without any additional compensation.”
Cunningham claims to have had “mostly stellar reviews” during her years with Star Tickets and said “they had no issue with me before the union.”
A message left with Krasula, who is also founder of the Southfield executive search firm Trustinus, was not immediately returned.
About 11 people gathered outside the Star Tickets office at 620 Century Ave. SW on Monday, April 1 to protest Cunningham’s termination.
Tom Good, resident officer at the NLRB in Grand Rapids said the unfair labor practice charge filing has triggered an investigation that will last a couple weeks.
Good said that if the investigation determines that Cunningham has a case, the NLRB will try and settle the issue by seeking reinstatement and back pay. If some kind of settlement cannot be worked out, the NLRB may issue a complaint ahead of scheduling a hearing before an administrative law judge in Grand Rapids.
That judge’s decision could be appealed by either party to the NLRB in Washington D.C.
The NLRB can only seek remedies, not punitive measures, said Good. “We try to turn back the clock to undo any financial harm and ensure other employees know what their rights are.”
Good said that “it’s not unheard of” for employers to terminate employees for union organization efforts.
Michigan’s new right-to-work law, which took effect March 28, has no direct bearing on the case because the new law doesn’t directly affect the union organizing or election process, said Good.

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