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Federal judge orders IL petroleum hauler to recognize union, restore pay and benefits

An Illinois petroleum hauler and marketer, was ordered by a federal judge to recognize and bargain with the union representing its drivers, even though the original company closed and its operations were transferred to a non-union entity owned and managed by the same people.

The injunction, issued July 11 by District Court Judge Robert M Dow Jr, also compels the company to restore the union pay and benefits that the drivers lost in the transfer, pending final resolution of the case before the Board. The ruling involved the following related entities: A D Conner Inc, Gas City LTD, Heidenreich Trucking Co, McEnery Enterprises, McEnery Trucking & Leasing LLC, and WJM Leasing LLC as single employers and/or A D Conner Inc and Heidenreich Trucking Co.

A key question in the case is whether the company owner improperly closed A D Conner Inc, where employees were represented by unions, and transferred its operations to a non-union firm he also owned, without bargaining with the unions. In his decision, Judge Dow wrote that “there is copious evidence from which the Board could conclude that (the owner) decided to shut down (A D) Conner in order to avoid the collective bargaining and other labor-related obligations that it had to Connerʼs employees.”

Drivers at A D Connerʼs two facilities, in Frankfort IL and Porter IN had been represented for more than a decade by two union locals of the Truck Drivers, Oil Drivers, Filling Station and Platform Workers Union, an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

At several points in 2010, according to court testimony, the owner and manager of Conner told union representatives that the company was in financial trouble and needed concessions. In September 2010, company representatives urged employees to decertify the union and accept wage and benefit cuts to prevent the company from closing. In October 2010, soon after the union notified the company that it would accept concessions, company representatives announced that A D Conner would be closed.

About half the drivers were then transferred to another company, Heidenreich Trucking Company, which was owned and managed by the same people, operated the same trucks and used the same facility in Frankfort. There were no negotiations with the union over the closure or transfer of work.

The union filed charges, and after conducting an investigation, the National Labor Relations Board regional office in Chicago issued a complaint. The case was presented to an administrative law judge, who found in June 2011 that the employer had committed multiple unfair labor practices.

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