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Labor Board Rules in Favor of Union at PGV

December 20, 2012, 12:04 PM HST (Updated December 21, 2012, 10:38 AM)
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A three-member panel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week that an election granting a union the right to organize workers at Puna Geothermal Venture was valid.

Attorneys for PGV had argued that the election held on May 14 was tainted because one of its supervisors campaigned for the union.

In the election, 11 workers voted in favor of being represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260. Eight workers voted against unionizing.

“There is ample evidence to overturn the election where at least two voters, if not more, were coerced in making their choice of a vote,” PGV’s San Francisco-based law firm, Winston & Strawn LLP, said in a brief filed with the NLRB.

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PGV’s attorneys said another election should be held.

According to the NLRB’s Dec. 14 ruling, ahearing officer for the labor board found that PGV had not proven that the employee in question, Abel Costa, was a supervisor under the definitions of federal law.

Two members of the panel ruled that even if Costa was a supervisor, PGV failed to establish that his conduct interfered with the union vote.

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Puna Geothermal Ventures contracts with Hawaii Electric Light Co. to provide up to 38 megawatts of electricity generated from steam obtained by wells drilled into the northeast rift zone of Kilauea volcano. That represents roughly 20% of the power used in HELCO’s electrical grid.

PGV has a total of 28 employees. Only maintenance and operational personnel participated in the union vote.

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