Workers at the Morton, Illinois, location of G&D Integrated, an Illinois-based logistics company, were concerned about their safety. The workers fabricate parts for mining trucks, such as those from the Peoria-based Komatsu Mining Corporation, which sells industrial mining equipment.
Decks for such trucks can be roughly twenty-four by twelve feet in size, and workers use an overhead crane to roll the piece as they make flat welds. At the Morton facility, if a deck were to fall, workers worried that it would hit the welder at the table next to them, whose back would be turned to the deck.
“Workers went to management before they ever reached out to us,” says Vince DiDonato, the Iron Workers Union district representative organizing with the G&D workers. The workers proposed turning the weld tables 90 degrees, explaining that they had done the measurements and knew their plan would work, ensuring no welder would have their back to another individual who was rolling the pieces of equipment. “Management wouldn’t even entertain the idea,” says DiDonato.
“We went to G&D with our concerns, and they didn’t really want to hear about it,” testified Evyn, a welder, on the union’s website. “So our next step was, ‘Hey, we’re going to get it done ourselves.’”
The workers began asking for details about the certification information for the shop’s cranes and for inspection tags on the rigging. An oil used on metals for the mining-truck tanks would burn their lungs and give them headaches when they welded on it, and this led them to ask for safety data sheets (SDS).
“As soon as the SDS sheets hit the floor, the company took the oil, and it was never found again,” says DiDonato.
Such health and safety concerns were a key reason the twenty or so workers at the Morton facility contacted the Iron Workers Union last year about organizing their workplace. On September 7, 2021, the workers marched on their boss, asking for voluntary recognition of the union. G&D refused, and the workers won a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election on October 13.
Retaliation had already begun before the vote, centered around the bargaining unit’s inclusion of David Goodman, a driver who says that he sometimes worked ten hours without breaks. The NLRB agreed to give the matter of his inclusion a hearing, so on September 30, G&D fired him, though not before an incident in which two managers offered to buy Goodman’s union shirt off his back, a means of bullying and harassing the outspoken union supporter. After the NLRB vote, retaliation intensified.
“They had two union busters in there from start to finish,” says DiDonato, referring to John Paul Cevallos of The CCG Group, LLC and Amed Santana of Santana International. Both are former Teamsters who have switched sides, a familiar story in the world of union busting.
“The day after the election, management started pulling workers in one by one and bringing up points for tardiness and absenteeism that went all the way back to February of last year, which had never happened before,” recounts DiDonato. The company was pushing workers to quit; by March of 2021, the shop was down to twelve workers.
On March 1, G&D laid off all but two of the remaining workers in Morton. Management told workers that the layoffs stem from G&D’s loss of its work with Komatsu. In a statement, the union characterized the layoffs as discriminatory, “the latest unacceptable attack in a nonstop anti-worker assault by the company targeting the only unit across their facilities that organized and formed a union.” The union has filed additional unfair labor practices (ULP) charges against G&D over the layoffs, bringing the total number of such charges to over 100.
The allegations range from wrongful termination to discrimination and surveillance. According to DiDonato, one supervisor at the Morton G&D plant even had a habit of following workers into the bathroom to monitor them.
“If he felt workers were going to the bathroom too much in one day or taking too long a time, he would go in there and disconnect the air conditioning,” says DiDonato.
“The ironworkers at G&D Integrated were being berated by management daily and wanted to form a union to protect themselves against the abusive treatment by management,” said Ben Scroggins, Iron Workers District Council organizer, in a statement:
They’ve put in all the work to try to make G&D a better place to work, and the company’s done nothing to listen or improve things — all they’ve poured their money and time into is building up their attack on employees and hiring union busters to break their union. This is the worst conduct I’ve ever witnessed by a company.
The workers are asking the NLRB to reinstate what’s known as the Joy Silk doctrine, which would mean the agency orders G&D to recognize the union and bargain rather than continue to violate federal law. NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has indicated interest in reviving Joy Silk, which was abandoned in the 1970s by a conservative NLRB. The G&D workers aren’t the only ones filing complaints that would provide the board with such an opportunity, either. Baristas at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company in Detroit are also pursuing such an approach.
“Because Joy Silk has been suspended for generations, it’s so much harder than it needs to be or should be to exercise your basic rights as a worker,” said Scroggins. “We should have been able to walk in on that day in September and say, ‘OK, let’s negotiate,’ and not have to continue fighting for months to gain what the workers had already proven — that they are a union.”