Advocates for temporary workers are celebrating the National Labor Relations Board’s new joint employer test that has paved the way for a group of Guatemalans in New Bedford, Massachusetts to organize a tire recycler. The recycler has about 70 people, both employees and temporary workers, with a large number of the employees being from Guatemala. Most of the workers receive no paid sick leave or vacation time and earn about $11 per hour. After asking for a $1 per hour raise four Guatemalans were terminated. After being reinstated, they led an effort to organize all 70 workers to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). Now, the tire recycler, the staffing company that employs the workers, and the UFCW are negotiating a union contract. Interestingly, New Bedford, Mass. is home to roughly 1,500 Guatemalans, though some believe the real number is three times that and say at least some of the Guatemalans at the tire recycler are in the U.S. illegally. Most illegal immigrants in New Bedford, and in many other parts of the country, work for temporary employment agencies. Therefore, the new, expansive joint employer test not only has a direct impact on unionizing temporary workers, it may have an indirect impact on bestowing greater awards and protections to illegal immigrants.
Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.