• Wolf Creek loses labor relations case

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  • Four Wolf Creek nuclear power plant employees won a three-year fight to be represented by a labor union after the U.S. Court of Appeals determined Wolf Creek was guilty of unfair labor practices.
    The Wolf Creek Generating Plant, located in Burlington, Kan., is operated by the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp. The plant is owned by Westar Energy, Kansas City Power & Light and Kansas Electric Power Cooperative Inc.
    Four plant employees, according to court documents, sought in 2016 to be represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 225, in Burlington. The employees are buyers, which means they purchase supplies and items for Wolf Creek, said Jason Ianacone, union business manager.
    But the company said the buyers were managerial employees and were not eligible to join the union. They appealed the union election that had occurred.
    "We went to the regional director in Kansas City, where the regional director ruled in our favor, saying the buyers were non-managerial and they were eligible to join the union," Ianacone said.
    It was the beginning of a back-and-forth process that put the union and Wolf Creek management in front of the regional director for the National Labor Relations Board, the national board for that organization and ultimately the Court of Appeals.
    When the national board ruled in the favor of IBEW and the four employees, court documents said Wolf Creek refused to negotiate with the union. After the NLRB filed an enforcement action to force Wolf Creek to negotiate, the company appealed the case.
    But the appeals court supported the NLRB decision and granted the application for enforcement. Ianacone said in this situation, no fines or anything was levied against Wolf Creek.
    He also said he doesn't recall any other union case in Local 225 that has dragged on for the length this case did.
    "We have organized other groups and we’ve had to go to the regional board before," he said. "When we’ve won at the regional board, the company has never (gone further). This is the first time it’s been a long, drawn-out process."
    A spokesperson for Westar Energy, when contacted about the case, said the company does not comment on litigation.
    Ianacone said the case was difficult for the four employees.
    "It put a lot of stress on the buyers because their future was up in the air," he said. "They voted to join the union. The company was refusing to bargain, and it put them in a precarious position."
    IBEW Local 225 represents about 350 workers at Wolf Creek, Ianacone said.
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