LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Just hours after Hamiltonian Breaion Grissom signed his name on a letter to management at Shred-it that he and his fellow workers were interested in forming a labor union, he was fired. The letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) notified the local office of Shred-it, a national document destruction provider with a location on Whitehead Road in Lawrence Township, that they had filed an official letter to hold an election to form a union of truck drivers and helpers.
Congressman Chris Smith met with Grissom, a leader of the effort, his colleagues, and Teamsters Local 469 President Fred Potter and Business Agent Christina Montorio days later on March 13 seeking his support of the unionization effort. According to Smith, employees are seeking union representation “out of an abundance of concern for health and safety protocols as well as a desire for better wages, pensions and other benefits, that motived them to seek representation by Teamsters Local 469.”
At that meeting, Shred-it workers explained how they believed there was retaliation -- including the firing of Grissom -- for their efforts to organize, and shared their fears regarding lax protocols and possible exposure to the coronavirus.
"The dirty tactics used by the company to deny us of our right to form a union is backfiring. The day we announced that we had filed for a union election, I was unjustly terminated. Management thought they could scare us, but it only made us stronger. We know better than to fall for their tricks, and we won’t stop until justice is won,” said Grissom.
Smith said that workers claim they received little support from management during the COVID-19 epidemic and instead have needed to fight for proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Employees also believe that they caught the coronavirus on the job and were "stunned when they were requested and permitted to return to their jobs before their quarantine was completed."
The NLRB confirmed to Smith on March 24 that an investigation into the allegations against Shred-It was underway and being conducted by NLRB’s Newark Regional Office. Evidence is being solicited from all parties involved -- the employees, including Grissom, The Teamsters, and Shred-it.
Smith noted that Shred-it allegedly also has been previously investigated for firing and/or harassing organizing leaders at locations on Long Island and in Rhode Island. The Long Island cases have been settled and damages awarded, while the Rhode Island case remains under investigation, according to Smith.
The next day, on March 25, members of Teamster Local 469 kicked off an election to vote on forming a union at the Shred-It facility. The voting is taking place through mail-in ballots and will last through April 14. Results will be tabulated and announced on or before April 28 by the NLRB.
"The National Labor Relations Act forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes. The law is clear,” Smith said. “During the election, Shred-It must refrain from threatening job loss, layoffs, transfers, work reassignments or benefit reductions, and enable workers to exercise their Section 7 right to join a union free from intimidation and coercion,” he added.
“The Teamsters are committed to fighting for these workers’ right to organize. We are calling on Shred-it to put an end to the intimidation and retaliation of workers exercising their legal right to form a union for a better future. It is shameful and unlawful, and we refuse to stand for it. We demand a fair union election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board,” said Fred Potter, President of Teamsters Local 469.
Messages to representatives of Shred-it were not returned by the time of story publication.
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