Pay for Crossing Picket Line? Replacement Workers Say Yes

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By Jon Steingart

Temporary replacement workers hired during a collective bargaining dispute should have been paid for the time it took them to commute to work, they say in a lawsuit ( Smith v. Allegheny Techs. Inc. , W.D. Pa., No. 2:17-cv-00911, complaint filed 7/10/17 ).

Commute time generally isn’t compensable unless it’s considered work. But the temporary workers said in their complaint filed July 10 that their travel time is compensable because part of their duties included safely transporting themselves and co-workers in a company van across a picket line.

Strom Engineering Corp, a temporary staffing company, brought in replacement workers at an Allegheny Technologies Inc. manufacturing plant to do more than just complete the tasks that the regular workforce was expected to do, the temporary workers’ lawyer, Sarah Schalman-Bergen, told Bloomberg BNA July 11. “In order for Strom to successfully provide the services to ATI,” the workers “needed to travel across the picket lines,” she said.

The temporary workers provided value not only in their ability to operate the plant but also in allowing ATI to demonstrate that it could continue business operations despite the dispute with its union workforce, the lawsuit said. Getting to the plant despite a union picket line was a discrete work task in itself, rather than a preliminary hurdle to overcome before work could begin, according to the complaint.

The workers’ lawsuit cited a job advertisement that said the temporary positions would involve transportation across a picket line amid a labor dispute. Moreover, Strom marketed itself to employers as a tool they could use during a lockout, the complaint said.

Representatives for Strom and ATI declined to comment.

Schalman-Bergen is with Berger & Montague P.C. in Philadelphia. Shanon Carson and Michaela Wallin with the same firm and Michael Yarnoff with the Kehoe Law Firm in Philadelphia also represent the workers. Attorneys haven’t entered appearances for Strom or ATI.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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