An National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge has ruled that two Hallmark movie productions violated federal labor law in 2021 when nine of its drivers were interrogated about their union activities, were threatened with job loss, and were then fired for attempting to unionize the projects under a Teamsters Local 399 contract.
The case stems from unfair labor practices charges filed by Local 399 against 3484 Inc. and 3486 Inc., the companies that produced Christmas at the Madison and Love at the Pecan Farm.
Following a three-day hearing, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Gerald Etchingham ruled that the employers’ representatives violated several sections of the National Labor Relations Act by attempting to prevent them from unionizing and then firing them for striking and picketing the productions.
In his ruling, the judge had particularly harsh words about David Wulf, the owner of 3484 Inc. and 3486 Inc. The judge found that during Wulf’s testimony, he was “evasive and untruthful in many of his statements and opinions to the point that he was not a credible witness and could not be relied on for most of his testimony.”
Wulf, the judge wrote, also “lied” about whether or not his transportation coordinator had hiring and disciplinary authority, and that he “lied” when he accused Lindsay Dougherty, who was then a Local 399 business rep and is now its chief executive officer, of sending Wulf “threatening and intimidating emails telling him he was going to have a bad day when, in fact, all Daugherty said to Wulf was that ‘it sounds like you had a really hard day yesterday.’ “
Read the judge’s full ruling here.
Commenting on the ruling, Joshua Staheli, vice president of Teamsters Local 399 said, “This is not the first time we have seen Hallmark movies portray romantic, fairytale-eques storylines, while behind the scenes, the crew plot line is based in horror. While the drivers were on strike, many of the crew came out and showed their support hoping they might be able to get health benefits out of David Wulf if the Teamsters were able to get a contract. It takes a lot of guts for a worker to stand up and fight back within their legal rights in the workplace. I am proud of these drivers for giving Hallmark and David Wulf a much better story to tell.”
In his ruling, the judge ordered the production companies, which went out of business as soon as the films were completed, to “cease and desist from interrogating employees about which employees supported the union; interrogating employees and creating an impression among its employees that their union activities were under surveillance; threatening employees that (Love at the Pecan Farm) will shut down and move its business to Canada or elsewhere if employees chose to be represented by the union or continued engaging in union activity.”
Local 399’s Staheli, however, said that “Unfortunately, the productions have both concluded. Though a victory for the legality of working people and the right to organize, justice may never be fully served in this case should the workers never be compensated for what is owed. I look at this win however more as a warning for bad employers that undermine the legal rights of workers seeking union representation. Wulf and all bad-actor employers should take note that the law is not on their side when it comes to intimidation and threats against organizing workers.”
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