Union, Workers File Suit Against DHL Subsidiary
07/13/2005 - The APWU and five employees of ABX Air filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati June 30, alleging the company has engaged in intimidation, coercion, and discrimination against workers who are attempting to unionize the ABX plant in Wilmington, OH. The workers are asking the court to declare that the company’s actions violate the Railway Labor Act, and to issue an injunction prohibiting the firm from such actions in the future.
ABX is a subsidiary of DHL, the global private-sector package delivery company.
The suit charges that ABX has attempted to prohibit or restrict employees from passing out pro-union flyers to co-workers; has conducted surveillance of workers involved in pro-union activities, and has attempted to intimidate employees who wear pro-union buttons and bumper stickers.
ABX has distributed newsletters opposing unionization, the suit alleges, and has supported and encouraged workers who oppose the selection of the APWU as the workers’ collective bargaining representative.
“There have been threats to people’s jobs and other intimidation,” said Rich Shelley, an APWU organizer.
“The company hired Cole Associates, which is an anti-union consulting firm,” he said, “as part of an effort to prevent the APWU from organizing workers at its Wilmington, OH, sortation and distribution hub.
“One employee who wore a button to work that said ‘Workers Deserve Respect’ was called into an office and questioned about the button by her supervisor, manager, area manager, and someone from Employee Relations. They demanded to know where she got it and why she was wearing it. They also asked if she knew it was a union button.
“This is not just an isolated incident,” Shelley said, “It is part of an orchestrated campaign to intimidate workers who are trying to organize a union.
“The Vice President of Human Resources demanded that another worker, Troy Martin, remove a pro-union bumper sticker from the back of his vest. When Martin refused to take off the sticker, the manager grabbed the vest, pulled Martin toward him, and yanked off the lanyard with Martin’s company i.d. badge, breaking the lanyard. Martin has filed a criminal complaint against the vice president with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department.
One of the most outspoken union supporters, Sherry Barrett, was reassigned after managers said they had received statements from her co-workers complaining that she had harassed them. Barrett was not given an opportunity to defend herself, and the company refused to provide copies of the complaints, Shelley said.
The five employees that filed suit include Martin, Barrett, Roy L. Coy, Cynthia Deer, and Suzanne Stotler.
In a letter to employees, ABX President and CEO Joe Hete said the company would respond to the charges in court.
The APWU began a union organizing campaign at the plant in February. Workers at ABX perform work that is similar to the work performed by APWU members at processing and distribution plants, but at their top step ABX workers earn approximately $6 per hour less than their APWU counterparts.