MILWAUKEE (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge ordered on Friday a Sheboygan, Wis., Piggly Wiggly supermarket to restore full-time status and health insurance to employees who were reduced to part-time status without bargaining with their union.

Chief Judge C.N. Clervert, of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, also ordered the company to refrain from making such unilateral changes in the future.

Clevert issued the orders at the request of the National Labor Relations Board. He cited violations of various sections of the National Labor Relations Act regarding the rights of the four employees who resigned after their hours were reduced.

According to a complaint issued by the NLRB Regional Office in Milwaukee, supermarket managers reduced the hours of 19 employees without notice, citing the impending opening of a non-union competitor nearby. The move to part-time status also resulted in the loss of health insurance.

Supermarket employees are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1473. Piggly Wiggly managers complained that union officials were not helping the employees about the reduction in hours and not cooperating with the store in letters written to the union officials. The managers posted these letters on the bulletin board.

Clevert said the injunction was appropriate "Given the unilateral reductions, open hostility to the Union, (and) the respondents' efforts to undermine the Union's credibility." He said it would restore the union's bargaining position and require that future changes to employee status be negotiated with the union.

The judge also said that, "There is a strong public interest in the integrity of the collective bargaining process."

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