Feds charge Marsh with unfair labor practices

The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a February hearing to present details of unfair labor practices charges levied against Fishers-based Marsh Supermarkets Inc.

NLRB staff investigated complaints filed by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 700 earlier this year alleging that Marsh violated federal law by threatening and intimidating employees to discourage them from forming a union. The grocery chain also allegedly fired an employee for supporting the union.

The federal agency has filed a formal complaint as a result of that inquiry, the union said in a statement released Thursday.

Marsh said the charges weren't true.

"We vehemently deny these charges and look forward to the scheduled hearing where the facts of the case will be presented," Marsh spokeswoman Connie Gardner said in an e-mailed statement Friday morning. "As the process continues we remain confident that in the end these allegations will be found to be without merit.  As a company, we are very proud of the fair and open environment that has been a hallmark of our relationship with our associates for nearly 80 years.  We have always respected and abided by the rules established by the National Labor Relations Board and any other governmental agency concerning employment matters."

As IBJ reported this fall, the union drive picked up steam this year as Marsh's parent company tried to sell the chain then pulled it off the market after failing to find a buyer.  Florida-based private equity firm Sun Capital Partners, which bought Marsh for $88 million in cash and the assumption of $237 million in debt, found no takers after it began marketing Marsh for $130 million to $150 million in late 2009. http://www.ibj.com/sun-capitals-cuts-spark-union-drive-at-marsh-supermarkets/PARAMS/article/22076

The labor relations board certified a 44-employee bargaining unit at the Beech Grove Marsh store, and a vote to authorize the union was scheduled for September.

But Local 700 canceled the election after Marsh reportedly fired employee Tony Massey in retaliation for his organizing activities, assigned corporate staff to the store on Albany Street in Beech Grove to intimidate employees, and trained security cameras on one employee, Marsha Bookout.

In its official complaint, the labor relations board charges Marsh management with placing their workers under surveillance; interrogating employees about union activities; prohibiting workers from talking about the union at work; interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights; and firing an employee because of his support of the union.

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