When Truckers Voted to Unionize, Their Employer Retaliated With Illegal Layoffs, Judge Rules

11 months ago 140

By Suhauna Hussain
From Los Angeles Times

Weeks aft a radical of larboard motortruck drivers voted to unionize, they opened their mailboxes to find termination notices from their employer. That missive was a usurpation of national labour law, a justice ruled Tuesday successful a determination that volition reinstate the terminated drivers with backmost wage and interest.

The drivers worked for Universal Intermodal, an affiliate of Universal Logistics Holdings, which operates respective companies that transport freight containers and merchandise flowing done the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They are immoderate of the busiest ports successful the Western Hemisphere, peculiarly successful caller weeks with a monolithic proviso concatenation bottleneck causing gridlock astatine the Port of L.A. The radical of astir 30 drivers voted to articulation a section of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas recovered successful his ruling that the institution was successful usurpation of national labour instrumentality connected aggregate counts. He said that the institution unlawfully interrogated and fired 2 employees starring national efforts and that erstwhile workers astatine the installation unionized, it slashed their hours, closed the Compton installation wherever galore of them worked, and laid disconnected the unionized workers successful bid to punish them for organizing.

The institution laid disconnected astir 70 employees successful full from facilities successful Compton and Fontana, including workers employed by its Roadrunner and Universal Trucking subsidiaries.

Rosas recovered successful his ruling that the institution laid disconnected these different workers to ace down connected aboriginal national enactment by getting escaped of “all worker drivers who were oregon could beryllium tainted by the union,” and past moving guardant with plans to prosecute caller “untainted worker drivers days aft the layoff,” the justice wrote.

“Judge Rosas contiguous made wide that the Universal radical of companies violated the instrumentality astatine the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach successful a blatant effort to trample connected employees’ cardinal close to signifier a union,” Ron Herrera, the Teamsters larboard part director, said successful a statement. “We cannot let immoderate corporation, nary substance however big, to disregard the law, particularly arsenic drivers enactment tirelessly to code the backlog astatine the ports and proviso our assemblage with the goods they request this vacation season.”

Universal Logistics Holdings did not instantly respond to a petition for comment.

Universal Logistics labour counsel John Ferrer disputed the allegation that the institution closed the Compton installation successful effect to national activities, penning successful a missive referenced successful Rosas’ ruling that it made the determination to adjacent the installation and laic disconnected larboard drivers earlier the union’s certification for “legitimate concern reasons.”

“Labor costs were not a origin successful the determination to adjacent the terminal,” Ferrer wrote.

Richard Tatge worked for Universal Logistics astatine its gait successful Fontana for astir 2 years. The San Bernardino nonmigratory connected with the Teamsters successful August 2019 and began organizing his co-workers.

At first, helium had fewer complaints with the job, Tatge said successful an interrogation successful March. But the longer helium worked the much helium disquieted astir the precariousness of his position. Grievances piled up. Tatge worked 10- to 14-hour days, the outgo of aesculapian security ate up a immense chunk of his paycheck and the institution failed to screen basal motortruck maintenance. Tatge said turnover among supervisors was high, making it hard for them to travel done and hole issues raised by drivers.

“It was precise overmuch like, ‘If you can’t grip the work, you request to leave,'” Tatge said. “We saw that happening, and we knew we didn’t person overmuch information successful that job.”

Workers voted to unionize connected Dec. 4, 2019. Two days later, the institution decided to adjacent its Compton facility. Drivers’ workloads were reduced, and soon after, they received notices of termination.

The laid-off drivers’ workloads were transferred to contracted truckers, besides known arsenic “owner-operators.” In precocious December 2019, the institution solicited applications for worker larboard operator positions astatine a installation conscionable 4 miles northbound of the Compton facility. The institution did not connection those positions to laid-off workers, according to the ruling.

Company and national representatives discussed a imaginable colony of the unfair labour signifier charges, but those discussions crumbled. At 1 point, the company’s manager of labour and contractual relations, Michael Vagts, sent a laid-off idiosyncratic who was asking to beryllium reimbursed for immoderate state expenses a $250 cheque on with a signed “confidential colony statement and wide release.” The cheque paystub noted that the outgo was for a National Labor Relations Board settlement. The idiosyncratic did not motion the statement oregon currency the check.

A Teamsters organizer wrote to Vagts demanding helium cease and desist from engaging straight with workers connected a colony agreement. “Not lone does this colony statement incorporate amerciable provisions, but the effort to necessitate (a worker) to waive his immense array of rights for $250 is shameful,” the organizer wrote. Signing specified an statement would person waived the worker’s close to much than 7 months of backmost pay, the justice noted.

Rosas’ ruling requires that Universal Logistics admit the national wrong 2 weeks arsenic the bargaining typical of each full-time and regular part-time larboard drivers moving oregon dispatched retired of the institution installation successful Compton. Universal Logistics is besides required to “bargain successful bully religion with the national regarding wages, hours and moving conditions, and if an statement is reached with the union, motion a papers containing that agreement.”

The NLRB archetypal charged Universal Logistics backmost successful March with astir 20 violations of national labour law. The lawsuit was tried remotely via Zoom video league successful June.

State lawmakers and labour advocates person sought to boost protections for truckers—who are often classified arsenic autarkic contractors and truthful ineligible for basal labour protections, specified arsenic the quality to collectively bargain for wages—and ace down connected misclassification of drivers. Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 338, written by authorities Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), that aims to clasp retailers accountable erstwhile they declaration with trucking companies that person repeatedly engaged successful operator misclassification.

Although workers astatine Universal Logistics sought to articulation the Teamsters for much broad protections, different freight proscription company, XPO Logistics, filed a petition for an NLRB-administered ballot to region Teamsters practice from the workplace. Teamsters officials voluntarily backed retired Wednesday alternatively than determination guardant with the vote, according to a quality merchandise from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which provided escaped ineligible assistance to the petitioners.

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