UPDATE: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently reached a settlement with Stericycle and New York-based subsidiary Shred-It over alleged anti-union behavior and wrongful termination of an employee. Erwin Espinoza, who was fired in April, will receive a $30,000 settlement, as reported by the New York Daily News.
Espinoza will not be returning to his job, but the NLRB is requiring Shred-It to share information about organizing rights in the form of posters and notices in employee mail boxes. The NLRB will be at meetings to read this information to employees in multiple languages. Jose Carrion, an employee who was allegedly targeted for supporting the union drive, will also have a written warning expunged from his record.
Per the settlement, Shred-It didn't admit to any violations of the National Labor Relations Act.
- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 29 has issued a consolidated complaint against Shred-It, based on charges filed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 813, for a series of alleged violations earlier this year at the company's Westbury, NY facility. Shred-It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Stericycle.
- The complaint alleges multiple instances of threatening, anti-union behavior against workers interested in organizing with Local 813. Charges include management interrogating employees about union activity, promises of better pay and benefits if workers didn't unionize, threats of reprisal and changes to working conditions, and talk of closing the facility entirely. Details surrounding the termination of one employee, Erwin Espinoza, are also included in the complaint.
- Jennifer Koenig, Stericycle's vice president of corporate communications, refuted these claims in an emailed statement to Waste Dive. "Stericycle denies the allegations made by the National Labor Relations Board Region 29 and intends to vigorously defend its position before an administrative law judge of the NLRB," she wrote. "Stericycle is disappointed by the statements made to the media and the position IBT Local 813 has taken with the NLRB as Stericycle has had a longstanding, productive relationship with this union which represents Stericycle team members in our locations in Farmingdale and the Bronx, New York."
Stericycle acquired Shred-It, an information destruction company, for an estimated $2.3 billion in 2015. Local 813 says it has about 200 employees at other regional locations and the union wants to continue growing that contingent. They're also working to get Espinoza reinstated with reimbursement for lost wages. According to the complaint, Shred-It raised wages for the employees at its Westbury facility in May. The union doesn't see that as sufficient.
“This is what trade unionism is all about—us working hard to fight for members’ rights and the rights of workers to join a union,” said Sean Campbell, president of Local 813, in a press release. “We’re going to continue to stand with these workers in seeking justice.”
The fact that a company already has other unionized locations doesn't necessarily mean they will be any more or less receptive to organizing. Paul More, a labor attorney with the firm McCracken, Stemerman & Holsberry, told Waste Dive that these types of situations don't often follow a particular pattern and are more dependent on individual factors. Though he said the "carrot" and "stick" strategy described in this case is a common one, with a heightened element because an employee was terminated.
"These are the type of charges that the NLRB takes very seriously," he told Waste Dive. "These aren't marginal types of unfair labor practices."
More said that even if violations are found to have occurred, the penalties will be much less severe than if an employer had, for example, engaged in racial or religious discrimination. If Shred-It is required to reimburse Espinoza, the process could take years. NLRB data show that Stericycle and Shred-It currently have more than a dozen open complaints filed against them throughout the U.S., including in Westbury. The two are far from the only companies with that distinction, and More attributed that in part to an uptick in organizing efforts.
"There has been an increased effort at organizing in the waste industry in a number of places, including New York," More said. "When formerly non-union companies are facing organizing drives you will see cases like this come up frequently."
The advocacy around commercial waste reform in New York is targeted toward increasing unionization within the local industry as part of a proposed zone collection system. The Teamsters have been one of the most vocal groups in this debate, recently conducting campaigns at Planet Waste and Sims Recycling where similar anti-union complaints were also filed with the NLRB.