Union withdraws final Etown labor charge

In a move that could lead to the first union election at a dot-com, organizers withdraw their remaining unfair labor practice charge against Etown.com.

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In a move that could clear the way for the first-ever union election at a dot-com, organizers have withdrawn their remaining unfair labor practice charge against San Francisco-based Etown.com.

The charge alleged that the company tried to illegally influence the election by telling customer service workers that a successful union effort could force Etown to shut down. Organizers withdrew the charge earlier this week, before the National Labor Relations Board completed its investigation into it, NLRB and union sources said.

Last week, organizers withdrew the other charge they had filed against the company. That charge alleged that Etown had illegally fired leaders and sympathizers of the union movement because of the union activities.

"They've withdrawn both of the cases," said Mark Berman, the supervising attorney at the NLRB's San Francisco office. "As we stand now, we will proceed on the election."

Organizers decided to withdraw the charge because the workers didn't want to testify, fearing retaliation from the company, said Bill Wyland, an organizer with the Northern California Media Workers Guild, which is leading the union effort. The company has also begun to address employee concerns such as erratic schedules and promotions, he said.

"We're waiting to see if the company will continue to do this or if it's just temporary on their part," Wyland said. "It's our understanding that we will continue on with the election."

Etown is happy organizers withdrew the charge and is ready to proceed with the election, said company spokeswoman Krys Card.

"We're looking forward to getting some resolution on the situation," Card said. "We are allowing our employees to make the decision that's best for them."

Etown's customer service workers had been scheduled to vote on union representation earlier this month. But the guild postponed the election days before it was to occur, charging that Etown was poisoning the vote.