June 30, 2017
By Steven Wishnia
New York, NY – The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a Maspeth-based waste-carting company to stop trying to oust the Teamsters as the union representing its employees.
In a settlement of three unfair-labor-practice complaints announced June 27, Planet Waste agreed to bargain in good faith with Teamsters Local 813 and stop harassing workers who were Teamsters supporters or testified against the company at NLRB hearings.
“This is the federal government saying no to union busting and no to threatening workers who stand up for themselves,” Local 813 President Sean Campbell said in a statement after the union received the settlement. “These abuses are not unique to Planet Waste, they happen every day at private sanitation companies across the city. Planet Waste wanted to get rid of the Teamsters so it could take advantage of our members.”
Planet Waste, whose services include removing debris from construction and demolition sites, collecting shredded paper and other recyclable materials, and getting rid of contaminated soil and asbestos, has been a Teamsters shop since it was established in 2006. But in February, the company refused to negotiate a new contract with Local 813, and began trying to get it decertified and replace it with a union called League of International Federated Employees Local 890.
The Teamsters call LIFE a “sham union” that raids other union shops to sign their workers to “company-friendly” contracts. Formed in the 1990s by Laborers Union officials who broke off and usurped a Laborers contract, it’s now headed by John Mongello Jr., who runs it out of his Bay Ridge rowhouse. It may have less than 1,000 members. Planet Waste owner Tom Tolentino told the Daily News in March that he was worried that the Teamsters’ pension plan could bankrupt his company, and the 15 drivers wanted to switch to LIFE, which only offers 401(k) retirement plans.
It’s illegal under federal law for an employer to initiate an election to decertify a union, Teamsters Joint Council 16 spokesperson Alex Moore told LaborPress. Local 813 filed an unfair-labor-practices complaint, and the NLRB canceled the vote, scheduled for March.
Local 813 also alleged that management had given LIFE organizers access to its facility while calling the police to have Teamsters staff thrown out for trespassing; threatened to fire workers who were union supporters or who had testified before the NLRB; put cameras in drivers’ trucks to spy on them and intimidate them; and questioned them about their union support.
The settlement requires the company to post a notice including 16 commandments, such as “WE WILL NOT threaten to fire you because you choose to be represented by or support Local 813” and “WE WILL NOT provide unlawful assistance to any labor organization by granting it preferential access to our facility and our employees.
The NLRB gave Planet Waste the equivalent of a suspended sentence: If it “violates any conditions of the agreement,” the Teamsters said, “it gives up its right to contest the underlying allegations and the NLRB can order immediate relief to protect workers.”
That’s “something the NLRB doesn’t usually do,” Moore says. “so it shows they thought the charges were serious.”
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