Attorney Gordon O'Connell Wins Rare Injunction In Aid Of Arbitration In Federal Court Preventing Layoff Of Telephone Operators

June 12, 2019

On June 13, 2019, Pyle Rome attorney Al Gordon O'Connell convinced a federal judge in Maine to issue an order blocking Consolidated Communications Inc. (CCI) from selling off its Operator Services/Directory Assistance unit to a call center in Illinois until IBEW, Local 2327 can arbitrate whether the so-called "sale" amounts to improper subcontracting. In achieving this result, the Union and Attorney Gordon O'Connell surmounted an extremely high burden and saved the jobs of fourteen telephone operators in Portland, Maine.

The case arose when CCI negotiated what it called an "Asset Purchase Agreement" with a third party under which CCI would offer operator services and directory assistance to its telephone customers in Northern New England that would be performed by the Illinois-based call center company. The arrangement called for CCI to collect the charges for these services from its customers and pass those monies off to the call center company that would be performing the work.

Though CCI called this new arrangement an "asset purchase," the Union recognized it as nothing more than the subcontracting of bargaining unit work. The Union therefore filed a grievance under its Collective Bargaining Agreement, which prohibits subcontracting that will lead to layoff of bargaining unit employees. However, since the sale was set to close on June 14, long before an arbitrator could resolve the grievance, Attorney Gordon O'Connell sought an injunction in federal court to block the sale until the grievance could be arbitrated.

Based on the strong and effective testimony from Local 2327's Assistant Business Manager, Julie Dawkins, the federal court found that an injunction was necessary to prevent the arbitration from becoming a meaningless exercise. The Court found that an arbitrator would be unable to remedy the grievance once the sale was consummated and thus issued an order preventing CCI from completing the sale until the case can be arbitrated. As a result, the fourteen operators in Portland get to keep their jobs until an arbitrator has the chance to issue an award permanently blocking this improper subcontracting.

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