Photo By: 
Perry Esposito

Machinist Union Wins Unjust Firing Case

In a first, IAM successfully defended their member who First Transit was trying to scapegoat for bus accident

Brian Young's picture
Mar 06, 2018

Many people who are not members of a union often see them as just banks for politicians. This is even the crux of the Janus v. AFSCME case. In reality, much of the work that they do is to protect their members. International Association of Machinists Local 447 recently defended a member and successfully won him his job back.

Anthony Cabrera is a mechanic with First Student Bus. On the job for about a year, on December 6, 2017, he was assigned to troubleshoot a noise coming from the back of a school bus. After an inspection, Cabrera found that a leaf spring shackle was rubbing on the body of the bus causing the noise. A new part was ordered, and the bus was deemed road worthy and returned to service. However, the next day a near tragedy struck. As the bus was driving along the Southern State Parkway on Long Island a rear wheel fell off. Thankfully, no children were on the bus. The company immediately took action by suspending Cabrera even though he did not work on or remove the wheel. The company claimed that whenever there was an incident in which a wheel fell off a bus, it was company policy to fire the most recent mechanic who worked on the bus, regardless of whether they touched the wheel.

Immediately Local 447 stepped in. Shop Steward Joe Gamez demanded a hearing, where First Student testified that their engineer found no excessive wear on the lug nuts and determined that it must have been mechanic's error. Although Cabrera once again said that he did not touch the wheel, the company fired him. Gamez and Local 447 responded by filing a grievance for unjust termination against the company. This grievance granted Cabrera a new hearing, known as a Step II hearing. At the hearing, Local 447 and labor relations for the company met. The union reminded the company that it is their duty to provide evidence that Cabrera has removed the wheel, it was not Cabrera’s duty to prove he hadn’t.

By the next day, the company realized that they could not prove that Cabrera touched the wheel and called Local 447 to inform them that they would be reinstating him. This was the first time that an employee was involved in a wheel incident and was able to successfully defend themselves and preserve their job. On top of that, Local 447 was successful in getting Cabrera full back pay from December 7, 2017, until January 18, 2018. In total, they won him $6,238.00 in back wages.

While groups like the Right to Work Foundation want to make unions seem like they are just rich fat cats taking union members money, the reality is that this is the hard work that union leaders and union stewards do on a daily basis. I bet that Anthony Cabrera is glad that he is a member of  Local 447.

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