Teamsters Win $30,000 from Union Buster
Teamsters fight back after Shred-It fires employees for organizing
If you needed more proof that union busting doesn't pay, just ask Shred-it if it was worth it.
A Queens man whose life was left in shreds after his company illegally fired him for trying to form a union won a $30,000 payout from his ex-employer after a National Labor Relations Board investigation.
Erwin Espinoza, 39, was booted from his position on April 7 at Shred-It, a Long-Island based company with facilities in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that destroys sensitive documents and medical waste for hospitals and other companies around the city.
Around the same time, according to the NLRB, Shred-It, which was recently bought out by Stericycle, also targeted one of Espinoza’s co-workers, Jose Carrion, who was supporting the union drive.
Carrion was targeted March 16 for more onerous working conditions and issued a written warning about his performance two weeks later, the NLRB said.
Both Carrion and Espinoza took their complaints to Teamsters Local 813, which had been working covertly to organize the roughly 30-person shop for several months over the spring.
The NLRB launched a probe of the allegations — and reached a settlement with Shred-It and Stericycle Thursday that requires the employer to wipe Carrion’s record clean and make a pay out to Espinoza.
The company also has to prominently display posters in its facilities advising all its workers of their protected organizing rights — something Espinoza hopes will help the remaining employees to recover their pro-union momentum from the spring.
“We were having meetings every Saturday, about 15 of us, maybe a few more, at a diner far away from the shop to talk about joining the union,” said Espinoza. “But somehow management always heard about what was said, they always knew what we were talking about and planning to do.”
Espinoza was among the most vocal advocates for joining Local 813 — pointing out that wages for the workers were stagnant at roughly $15 an hour, with no job security.
“We knew guys could get fired anytime. There was one guy, a veteran who had been there many years and he got jammed up one time. He had an emergency situation but couldn’t get to a phone to call in. They fired him, just like that,” he said.
Some of the more senior workers, who earn a little more than the other guys, worried they’d be fired for a younger, cheaper hire.
“Job security was the real concern, guys were always really worried about that,” said Espinoza.