Illegally Fired Mechanics Reinstated with Back Pay After Teamsters Intervene
May 30, 2017
When Bill Adams received notice from his employer telling him he didn’t have a job anymore, the last thing he expected was for his story to end with a more than $11,000 payday and a new job somewhere even better. But because of the Teamsters Union, that is exactly what happened.
Adams, who had been a mechanic at carhaul company Selland Auto Transport for 12 years, was called into the shop manager’s office on December 6, 2016 along with two of his coworkers and told that it was their last day of work. “My stomach just dropped right out of me,” Adams said. “I was totally caught off guard that this was happening.”
As he was leaving, the shop manager handed him two envelopes: one contained his final paycheck, and the other contained a letter from Selland President Charlie Brown describing the reasons for his layoff. As he read the letter, his shock turned into confusion and then anger. The letter read: “We have experienced a significant loss of business. The most severe loss was … in San Bernardino.”
The problem? Adams didn’t work in San Bernardino, California. He was employed by Selland’s facility in Seattle, Washington.
“As soon as I read that letter, I knew exactly what was going on,” Adams said. “This didn’t have anything to do with the loss of customers in California. I was being fired for my Union activities, pure and simple.”
Selland Auto Transport employees across the West Coast had voted in December of 2014 to join the Teamsters, and Adams had been a member of the Teamsters’ Selland Auto Transport bargaining committee since the very beginning, helping the Teamsters to negotiate a first contract with the Company. The Company had been dragging its feet and refusing to negotiate in good faith for almost two years until workers had finally had enough and walked off the job in an Unfair Labor Practice strike on November 21, 2016.
The strike, which lasted just one day, was enough to force Selland back to the bargaining table. Unfortunately, it was also enough to cost the company a major customer in Southern California, which led to some layoffs. However, the layoffs of Adams and his coworkers in Seattle were done out of proper seniority order, and specifically targeted strong Union supporters.
The first call Adams made was to Teamsters Local 174 Senior Business Agent Carl Gasca. “Selland made a big mistake firing these guys,” Gasca said. “I told Bill not to worry – we’d take care of it, and we’d take care of him.”
The next phone call made was by Gasca to Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks, who couldn’t believe Selland’s hubris, and couldn’t wait to see it blow up in their faces. “You can’t fire people for Union activities. It’s completely illegal,” Hicks said. “This couldn’t possibly have been a more open-and-shut case. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win this case and get Bill his job back, with back pay.”
There was no denying that Adams was a strong Union supporter. He came to every bargaining session with the Company, helped gather evidence and testified in support of Unfair Labor Practice charges against the Company, and was the most trusted liaison between the Local Union reps and Selland’s workforce in Seattle. “When it came to working with us, Bill was the guy,” said Gasca.
This also was not the Company’s first time discriminating against Adams for his Union support. He had his position as shop lead taken away from him after workers voted to join the Teamsters, and he also lost the ability to work any overtime. Adams testified before the NLRB that “I used to [work overtime], but once the Union won the election Charlie Brown said the shop was going to pay for it and stopped letting people work overtime.”
“Selland and Charlie Brown pulled a lot of sh** in the past,” Rick Hicks said. “But firing Bill was the last straw. There was no way we were letting them get away with this.”
Hicks immediately got the International involved, with IBT attorney Jim Wallington filing a charge with the National Labor Relations Board in Seattle. Adams worked together with Carl Gasca to gather evidence for the Board, and in March of 2017 the NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint against Selland. The Company then went into settlement negotiations with the Board.
The final settlement, which was reached in April 2017, was exactly what Rick Hicks and Carl Gasca had predicted: Adams was offered his job back, with $11,673 in back pay. His three laid-off coworkers – Derk Haag and Alex Boyd out of Seattle, Washington and Jose Cuevas out of San Bernardino, California – were also given their jobs back with back pay, for a total cost to Selland of over $36,000.
For Selland, the money was just one part of the settlement. Adding salt to the wound was the National Labor Relations Board’s requirement that Selland post a Notice to the Charged Parties at all 11 of its locations for a period of 60 days. The contents of the Notice? A long list of all the labor laws the company had broken, along with solemn promises that they would not do any of it again.
“It was the equivalent of a teacher making a kid write ‘I will not do XYZ’ on the chalkboard 500 times after school,” said IBT Carhaul Director Kevin Moore. “For a company that took such pleasure in bossing its workers around, this was a huge embarrassment, and it really changed their attitude at the bargaining table. Everyone knew the Teamsters had won this round.”
As for Bill Adams, he no longer works for Selland. With some help from Carl Gasca and Teamsters Local 174, he was able to get a different job as a mechanic at Republic Services.
“There was a part of me that wanted to go back, to show them that they aren’t as all-powerful as they think,” Adams said. “I’d have loved to look those a**holes in the eye as I showed up to work every day.” However, ultimately he realized that with the Company so hell-bent on firing him, he would be better off elsewhere.
When asked if he had any advice for his former coworkers as they continue to fight for a first contract, Adams said simply “stay strong, Brothers. Stay strong, stay Teamsters, and don’t let those a**holes shove you around.”
Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 7,200 working men and women in the Seattle area. Visit www.teamsters174.net for more information. “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174.