The North Andover, Mass., Eagle-Tribune has an unusual story today -- about how eight workers who were fired in 2003 for trying to organize a union at rotational molder Telcom USA Inc. have received back pay four years later. They don't have jobs to go back to, though, because the plant they tried (unsuccessfully) to organize has since closed.
Eight people who were fired and one who was suspended in 2003 for trying to organize a labor union at a company in Lawrence recently received a combined $88,834 in back pay following a ruling by a federal labor panel. In May, the National Labor Relations Board mailed payments, which ranged from a low of $111 to a high of $15,002, to workers who had been involved in a failed attempt to form a union at Telcom USA, a company that made plastic lawn ornaments and was located in South Lawrence. The company has since left the area and attempts to reach executives were unsuccessful. The firings four years ago were unlawful retribution for union organizing activities, said Carl Proper, communications director of the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE, a union that represents many area textile and restaurant workers and which tried to help organize the union at Telcom. "We lost the election, and ... they fired us," said Orlando Jimenez, 35, of Beacon Avenue, Lawrence, who received $13,344 in the settlement. He said employees at the company had tried to work with managers in 2002 to improve conditions at the plant but were ignored in their efforts.According to the story, the union lost an election in November 2002, 52 to 47. Another election was held in May 2003, but it came after 41 workers were laid off. The union said the layoffs were in retaliation for organizing activities, according to the news report, but a judge ruled that only eight layoffs were related to the union effort. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2006, and the plant now is closed. So this looks like an unfortunate story for all involved.