WASHINGTON – A Capitol Heights trash hauling company violated fair labor standards in efforts to stop truckers from unionizing, a federal appeals court ruled.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision against CWI of Maryland Inc., finding the company spied on union activities, fired a driver for organizing and moved to Virginia to escape unionization.
But the judges overturned the National Labor Relations Board’s order to rehire one vocal union supporter fired during the unionization campaign.
CWI hauls trash from Washington to landfills in Virginia. In 1994, it had to cut down on drivers’ workloads after truckers complained that the company was violating U.S. Transportation Department regulations by making them drive up to 16 hours a day.
Later that year, some CWI drivers began an effort to unionize the truckers.
CWI soon fired trucker Richard Pace for supporting the union, and company President Wilton “Tony” Lash harassed another union backer, according to a 1995 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in a suit brought by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 639.
One week after filing for unionization with the NLRB, Lash announced truckers would have to report to a new site in King William County, Va.
Since the new site was about 100 miles from CWI’s old site in Prince George’s County, few CWI truckers could make the commute. Those who might have been willing to drive to Virginia did not have the opportunity, since the company fired most of its truckers, according to the NLRB.
CWI Operations Manager Dwayne “Dino” Sawyer told one of the terminated drivers he was being fired for being seen at a union meeting. Lash told another trucker he would declare bankruptcy rather than accept unionization, the NLRB found.
An NLRB judge ruled in favor of the Teamsters, ruling the company violated federal fair labor standards. The judge ordered CWI to rehire the fired employees, return the truckers’ base to Maryland and recognize the Teamsters local as a collective bargaining agent.
In a 2-1 decision, the Richmond-based federal appeals court upheld most of the NLRB’s ruling, but reversed the board’s decision to reinstate Pace. The judges said the evidence did not prove Pace was fired for his union activities.
Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, in his dissenting opinion, wrote that the union did not prove the company moved to Virginia to avoid unionization and that the NLRB was wrong in considering the move an unfair labor practice.
The NLRB now must create an order in accordance with the court’s decision.
CWI attorney Joel I. Keiler said the company plans to ask for a rehearing in front of all the judges of the circuit court.
Meanwhile, the union will seek back pay for the fired CWI employees, said James Woodward, who organized CWI truckers.
“It’s time to pay up,” Woodward said. “They’re going to have to find 3 or 4 million dollars somewhere.”