PORTLAND, Maine — Shaw’s Supermarkets is fighting an effort by the Teamsters union to organize the chain’s pharmacists at 16 stores in Maine, arguing its pharmacy managers are supervisors and therefore are not able to join a labor union.

The dispute is before the National Labor Relations Board, which held a hearing Jan. 29 after the unions petitioned Jan. 20 to represent all full- and part-time registered pharmacists and graduate non-registered pharmacists in Maine.

Traci Place, a business agent with Teamsters Local 340, said the union does not represent any other workers at Shaw’s and the union recruitment effort underway is “in the very early stages.”

“It’s Local 340’s position that employees have a voice in the workplace and, therefore, we are here to help employees do that in whatever industry they may work in,” Place said.

The union represents a wide array of industries in the U.S., with about 440 Teamsters Locals in the country and other affiliates through the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada that represent about 1.4 million workers, according to the national union’s website.

After the Jan. 29 hearing, the NLRB reopened hearings to gather evidence in the case, where Shaw’s has argued its pharmacy managers qualify as supervisors at each of its stores in Maine.

The NLRB on Wednesday turned down the company’s appeal that the NLRB should not reopen the case.

According to the appeal from Shaw’s, filed Feb. 19, the supermarket chain’s management argued before the board that its pharmacy managers have the ability to hire, discipline and fire employees and take other actions that indicate those employees are supervisors.

In 15 Maine stores, the chain said its pharmacy managers oversee pharmacy technicians, except for its Brunswick store, which it said has a pharmacy manager with no subordinates.

“The unequivocal testimony is that all (pharmacy managers) have the same authority, whether they work in a store with no pharmacy technicians or with five pharmacy technicians,” the company’s attorneys wrote.

About 71,000 workers in Maine are represented by unions, a number on the decline in recent years in Maine, falling from about 13.1 percent of employed workers in 2013 to about 12.5 percent in 2014. Union representation in Maine over the last decade peaked in 2008 at 14.7 percent of workers.

Place said she did not have information on timing for the next steps in the case, and an NLRB representative did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.