[Homestead] Unions don't protect immigrant labor
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Thu Sep 23 16:15:26 EDT 2004
While I generally support Unions for their role in transforming wages
and working conditions from the American Dark Ages, I have had my
hassles with them too---trying to limit my night shift earnings when I
worked as a machiist at Gisholt during one of my Wisconsin college years.
And they sure as hell don't protect immigrants---at least since a flood
of Irish immigrants to New York gave the Unions voting clout.
Workers file complaint against Teamsters local
Secret deal alleged on plant closing
By Geoff Dougherty
Tribune staff reporter
Published September 23, 2004
A controversial Teamsters local threatened to call immigration
authorities on some of its Mexican members if they protested a backroom
deal that closed a Bedford Park mirror factory, according to a complaint
filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Local 743, one of the Teamsters' largest locals in the country, also was
accused in the complaint of denying workers a chance to vote on a
severance package and failing to give them advance notice that the
Silver Capital Corp. plant was closing.
Some workers interviewed by the Tribune said they received severance pay
of up to $700; those with less than six years' seniority received nothing.
The allegations against the Teamsters came as the local geared up for an
election. The complaint was filed by an opposition candidate late last
week. Ballots were mailed Wednesday.
The NLRB will investigate and determine if the allegations merit
referral to a judge. If that happens, the judge will conduct
administrative hearings and could assess penalties, including reprimands
or money damages, against the union.
"They (Local 743) don't respect the immigrant workers," said Richard
Berg, who is running for president of the local.
Current president Robert Walston said the complaint is without merit.
"There is no truth to any of the NLRB charges against the local and they
will be dismissed," Walston wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune.
Walston defended the union's work in securing payments for the Silver
"The local secured $37,000 in severance benefits and eligibility for
unemployment compensation up to two years. Did we ask for more? Of
course, but getting any money from a failed business, let alone $37,000,
is in the workers' best interest," he wrote.
Bob Vandeveire, vice president of operations at the plant, said the
Teamsters "negotiated in good faith. There were no secret deals," he
said. "This was presented to the rank and file for validation."
Vandeveire said the company gave 60 days' notice of the intent to
shutter its plant on West 65th Street as required by law.
The problems, he said, lie in the way the closure arrangements were
conveyed to union members. "It wasn't effectively communicated,"
Earlier in the summer, 75 workers at the plant were laid off without
severance packages, union members said.
On Aug. 20, the remaining 100 workers received notice that they would
lose their jobs when the factory closed Sept. 10.
In order to receive severance packages, workers had to sign an agreement
releasing the union and Silver Capital of all liability for the plant
That didn't sit well with Blanca Quito, a packer, who refused to sign.
"It's unfair," said Quito, who will soon begin looking for work to
support her eight children.
She said she was offered $500 in severance.
"I don't ask for a lot, but I was there 10 years," she said. "It should
have been more. They never asked us what we wanted. They said this is
what we've got for you."
The NLRB complaint was filed by Marcela Garcia, who named Jose Galvan as
the union official who negotiated with Silver Capital and threatened to
call immigration authorities. Galvan could not be reached for comment.
Garcia is running to replace Galvan as vice president of the local.
Now collecting unemployment, she has four children to support and is
concerned about paying the bills.
"We have to spend a lot less money now," Garcia said.
She and her husband both worked at the plant, earning about $13 an hour.
Opposition candidates have long accused Local 743 officials of favoring
management over workers.
"The union is going behind closed doors and making deals with
management," Berg said.
The union, he said, agreed to allow a West Side lamp factory to begin
scheduling members for 32 hours a week instead of 40, despite a contract
prohibiting such moves.
Ultimately the full workweek was restored after protests, he said.
Walston and others on his slate are campaigning based on their
experience as union leaders, and say they have improved the union's
financial condition and won good contracts for members.
"This is not a time where members can afford on-the-job training for
their leadership," the e-mail said.
Local 743 represents 11,000 members, among them factory employees,
health-care workers and those in technical positions.
In 1995, a union trustee who had formerly served as president of the
local was ousted from his job for alleged ties to organized crime figures.
- - -
NLRB investigating complaint in factory closing
Company closing: Silver Capital Corp.
Out of jobs: 175 workers, mostly immigrants.
Complaint: that Teamster representative threatened to call immigration
authorities unless workers agreed to severance pay ranging from nothing
for up to six years on the job to $700.
Status: National Labor Relations Board is investigating.
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