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The Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that the issue of the enforceability of alleged individual contracts providing for certain wage supplements was neither of “peripheral concern” to federal labor law, nor did it touch “interests so deeply rooted in local feeling and responsibility” to avoid the broad preemptive scope of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959), the state court reasoned that whether a bargaining unit employee may enforce such a contract as a matter of federal labor law and policy, are matters that are best left to the federal agency charged with administering the NLRA. Barbieri v United Technologies Corp., 255 Conn. 708 (2001). In Barbieri, due to a restructuring, the employer tried to soften the transition of its employees from salaried to hourly bargaining unit positions by maintaining a policy of paying such employees a temporary wage supplement in addition to the maximum rate of pay, as defined by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). However, due to union objections, the employer agreed to discontinue the wage supplement policy and memorialized its agreement with the union in a letter, which indicated that all employees demoted from salaried positions to hourly status would “be paid no more than the maximum of the grade to which they are assigned.” The affected employees then filed their state law breach of contract claim. In light of these facts, the Connecticut Supreme Court determined that in order to receive the benefit of the wage supplement program, the employees agreed to accept positions in the bargaining unit. They continued to work for the employer in those positions, “reaping the benefit of the collective bargaining agreement, as well as the supplemental wage program, when the [employer] and the union had agreed to discontinue the program. The breach of contract action in this case is not peculiarly local, but, rather, because the [employees] agreed to return to the bargaining unit, it implicates the ‘comprehensive amalgam of substantive law and regulatory arrangements that Congress set up in the [NLRA] to govern labor-management relations affecting interstate commerce.’ ” Accordingly, the judgment of the lower court for the defendant was vacated. � 2001, CCH INCORPORATED. All Rights Reserved.

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