A New York business owner who closed down a truck repair shop and fired two workers after learning that they wanted to join a union was ordered to reestablish the business, rehire the workers, and recognize their union, according to a federal labor board decision.
The National Labor Relations Board’s ruling, issued Tuesday, also requires RAV Truck and Trailer Repairs Inc. to compensate the two workers—Jorge Medina and Victor Gonzalez—for the earnings they lost because of the terminations.
An order to skip a union election and proceed to bargaining, known as a Gissel bargaining order, is an unusual remedy the labor board applies in cases that it deems to involve egregious instances of anti-union retaliation. It is also used where the board finds that an employer’s actions had such a coercive effect on workers that it would be nearly impossible to have a fair election.
The ruling demonstrates that businesses risk a particularly burdensome remedy if they engage in what the board has traditionally viewed as hallmark violations of federal labor law, including closing down a business in response to union organizing, firing all union-eligible workers, or packing the proposed bargaining unit with new employees who are less sympathetic to organized labor.
Fired in 24 Hours
The repair shop’s owner, Christopher Trentini, operated a concrete retailer called Concrete Express of NY, LLC, before establishing the repair shop. An NLRB administrative judge considered both businesses to be a single, joint employer, noting that Trentini was the sole owner and manager of both, and that RAV would perform services for Concrete Express, apparently without payment.
Medina and Gonzalez, who were the only two mechanics employed by the repair shop, were trying to join Teamsters Local 456. Trentini fired Medina within 24 hours after he received notice from the NLRB that Local 456 was moving to represent the two mechanics; he fired Gonzalez about a week later.
The NLRB “concluded that RAV and Concrete Express, a single employer, violated Sec. 8(a)(3) of the [National Labor Relations] Act by discharging one employee and laying off a second for their union activities, and later closing RAV with the purpose and foreseeable effect of chilling union activity among the employees of Concrete Express,” the board said in its ruling.
The case also involved the issue of whether Trentini violated the National Labor Relations Act by making threats related to immigration or deportation. The owner told Medina he was fired because he didn’t have legal authorization to work in the United States, even though the repair shop didn’t have a practice of verifying work authorization status, according to the unanimous opinion.
The NLRB, which is down to three Republican members, said Trentini’s mention of potential deportation and involvement by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency didn’t amount to a threat because he didn’t say he had taken or would take any action regarding the workers’ immigration status.
The case is RAV Truck & Trailer Repairs, Inc., N.L.R.B., 02-CA-220395, Decision 3/3/20