One Step Closer To Collective Bargaining & Respect On The Job, Some Temp Workers Make Move To Unionize After Recent NLRB Ruling
One Of The First To Join A Union Is A Group Of Guatemalans Working In A Tire Yard In Massachusetts/Says One Worker: "They Treated Us Poorly. We Asked For A Dollar Raise. Our Boss Said He'd Give It To Us, But We Never Got Our Raise."
(NEW BEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS) - Advocates for Temporary Workers are celebrating a recent decision issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to broaden the definition of Joint Employers - a move that could bring many Temp Workers closer to Collective Bargaining.
One of the first to join a Union following the new rule is a group of Guatemalans in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Arriving from all over New England and New York, a fleet of trucks delivers endless loads of spent rubber to the New Bedford tire yard - Bob's Tire Company. A shredder feeds a conveyor belt that spits onto a mountain as black as coal, destined to be reused as heating fuel.
Tomas Ventura, 26, has worked the tire yard since he came to the U.S. from Guatemala at the age of 18: "Basically, (management) ‘treated us poorly.’ So we got together and asked for a dollar raise. Our boss said he'd give it to us but time passed and we never got our raise."
Ventura says most of the Workers get no Paid Sick Leave or Vacation Time - and after eight years working for the company, he earns $11 an hour.
Bob's Tire Company refused to comment for this story, but by Ventura's account, earlier this year the owner of the company fired him and three others for demanding better Wages.
Thanks to a change in Federal Labor Law, it's easier for Temp Workers like Ventura to Unionize. "I think he fired us to ‘teach’ the other Workers a ‘lesson.’ That's why I said: 'Let's do something. This is the time,'” said Ventura, who adds that after his boss treated him - and other Workers - poorly, he returned to protest. When the four Workers returned to protest, they threatened to file a grievance and pressured the company to rehire them.
Shortly after the Workers were rehired, 65 of 70 of the company’s Workers voted to join the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union.
According to the census, New Bedford is home to 1,500 Guatemalans, though advocates estimate the real number could be three times that. The ones at Bob's Tire speak a Mayan language, K'iche', and at least some say they're in the U.S. illegally.
Former NLRB Chairwoman Wilma Liebman says Workers who are in the U.S. illegally have the same rights under Labor Law as citizens - but there's a wrinkle. "What that means it is that Undocumented Workers who are involved in an organizing effort ‘risk,’ if they are fired, (they are not) able to get their job back and (not) able to get back pay for the time that they've been fired," Liebman says.
Organizers in New Bedford estimate as many as three-quarters of the city's Guatemalans are here illegally - and the majority work through Temp Agencies.
That's probably the case in other parts of the country as well.
Advocates say it's a common way companies avoid liability for employing such Workers.
The change in Federal Labor Law could make it easier for Temp Workers to Unionize, whether they're here illegally or not.
The Bob's Tire Workers Unionized as employees of both the tire company and the temp agency.
Attorney Michael Harper, who teaches Labor Law at Boston University, says this would have been hard to do before the NLRB changed the definition of Joint Employment.
"Oh, your employees formed a Union, a temp agency? We're going cut you off. They're out of a job because they formed a Union. Now, if they're a Joint Employer, if they do that, that's an Unfair Labor Practice," Harper says.
To Read the Rest of This Labor News Story, Go to: www.npr.org/2016/01/06/457859684/one-step-closer-to-collective-bargaining-some-temp-workers-unionize