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Union Secures 100k in Back Pay in Arbitration Victories


The week of July 26th was very successful for USWU members in Middlesex Borough NJ and Route 22 Honda Nissan and Toyota in Hillside NJ.

In Middlesex, the employer attempted to evade a pay raise to employee's due on January 1, 2010. Local 255 represents 24 Public Works Employees. Our members were expecting a 2 % pay increase on January 1 and an additional 2% on July 1.

The borough attempted to avoid the increase by claiming the boro employees were paid on an annual basis instead of on an hourly basis despite clear and concise language of the cba. The Boro claimed that since the calendar year 2010 had 27 instead of 26 paydays that employees should actually earn 4% less each week to make up the "extra 2” week paycheck.

This absurd reasoning was immediately grieved by Business Agent Ed Kahn and Chief Steward Len Vidal. The hearing was held on July 26th. The union presented testimony by Kahn, new chief Steward Joe Green, and long time member Bob Echol. As Mr. Echol commented to the arbitrator, "If this is how the Borough gave my last raise, I can't afford the next one!"

After hearing the union present its case the arbitrator firmly told management that unless they produced evidence that these employees were paid annually he was going to rule in favor of Local 255. After further consultation the employer decided against presenting its case but still insisted that the arbitrator render an award.

The arbitrators subsequent award will mean that each member should receive approximately $2,400 dollars over the course of 2010 or over $50,000 total award value. "It’s a shame that the Boro decided to waste not only our members dues money but taxpayer dollars as well. We told them they were wrong for six months and shouldn't waste taxpayer money on a needless arbitraion, " said Ed Kahn. "We’ve had numerous layoffs and keep hearing sob stories about finances yet despite being told they were wrong the Boro proceeded to waste thousands of dollars on the case. "

Only 2 days later, Local 355 secured nearly an additional $50,000 in a back pay settlement during another arbitration hearing.

Once again the employer attempted to simply ignore the contract and refused to pay a contractually obligated pay increase effective September 1, 2009 to technicians and parts department employees at Route 22 Toyota and Honda. The employer also refused to pay a contractually obligated June 1, 2010 pay increase to technicians and parts at Route 22 Nissan.

Despite months of attempting to settle the grievance, Business Agent Ed Kahn and Shop Steward George Castelwood along with Union Attorney Eric LaRuffa prepared to win the case and enforce the contract.

While the arbitrator waited to hear the case a settlement was finally reached between the Company and the three Local 355 represented stores. The settlement included a back pay of $36,000 for the Honda employees and $25,000 for our members at Toyota. All three settlements also included a one year reduction in health insurance contributions by employees.

Local 355 President Jonathan Ames commented" The union threw our entire support to our members to ensure justice and defend our contracts. No Local 355 employer is going to just walk away from a 355 contract - ever."

USWU President, Lori Ames praised members in Middlesex and the auto dealerships for standing up for their rights. " USWU is proud to be able to represent workers willing to stand up for their rights. Only by having a strong union both internally and financially are we able to continually defend our members during these difficult economic times from employers who are challenging us more than ever. The fact that two different employers would attempt to use such weak excuses for refusing to pay negotiated wage increases is an example of what our union is experiencing nationwide and why our costs of representation are going up. By securing over $100,000 in back pay in just one week are just two examples that the union must be financially prepared to meet every challenge. The price of not having the resources would be too steep. "

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