TWIN FALLS — The National Labor Relations Board has settled a case with Lamb Weston’s potato processing plant in Twin Falls.
The board’s regional director, Paula Sawyer, agreed to the settlement Dec. 22, refusing to reissue a complaint. The case involved allegations by Teamsters Local Union 483 saying Lamb Weston supervisors intimidated and coerced employees prior to a union election in July.
Now, the union is appealing the decision and asking the federal government to defer the case to state courts. The company, meanwhile, just wants to move on.
“Our management team acted with integrity before, during and after the vote,” Lamb Weston spokeswoman Shelby Stoolman said in a statement. “The overwhelming majority of employees — 80 percent — voted to not be represented by the union. The Regional Director of the NLRB has approved a settlement, and we are ready to move past this issue so we can focus on our business operations.”
The union has until Friday to appeal the regional director’s decision, Teamsters Local 483 Director of Representation Darel Hardenbrook said. It wants to pursue criminal charges at the state level, but Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have rejected the union’s requests.
Hardenbrook says this is in direct violation of Title 44, Chapter 20 of Idaho statutes, which says those officials are responsible for investigating complaints or violations of the right to work statute. But Loebs said there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.
Wasden’s office, meanwhile, deferred to the federal agency.
“When contacted by the Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney’s office over the summer, the Office of the Attorney General conducted a thorough review of the matter and the laws that applied,” Wasden said in a statement. “Federal law provides that once the NLRB became involved, state or local authorities — including my office — were immediately preempted from having any role. At that point, it became a federal matter to be handled by federal authorities only.”
An email to Loebs’ office sent by Wasden’s assistant chief deputy Brian Kane provided a detailed court history supporting that stance.
But Hardenbrook believes that’s a cop-out. If the charges were against the union, he said, the state would be involved.
Teamsters Local 483, based in Boise, had rejected the settlement, turning it over to the regional director. In the settlement, Lamb Weston agreed to post notices telling employees about their rights — but the company does not admit to any wrongdoing.