Thursday, November 30, 2017
The Teamsters have filed federal charges against Pinnacle Logistics for what they say was retaliatory action after workers at the facility in Quonset tried to organize.
Mike Simone with the Teamsters Local 251 spoke about the charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Pinnacle, which in the fall touted bringing three hundred jobs to Rhode Island as the “leading provider of surface transportation, supply chain management, aircraft handling and parking services within the United States” — that works directly with Amazon to distribute goods from T.F. Green throughout New England.
“This is the company that the state, and Governor, touted so highly about bringing in,” said Simone, who is a Business Agent with the Teamsters, of Pinnacle. “I’ve been organizing since the 1990s, and haven’t seen anything like this.”
Simone said he was contacted by workers at the facility who wanted to organize, after they said they weren’t getting paid properly for overtime hours worked, or what they had been told upon hiring would be available to them, including benefits and a pension.
Pinnacle, which is based in Texas, did not respond to repeated attempts for comment on Wednesday.
Charges Brought, Allegations Made
The first charge Simone filed on November 27 with the NLRB included the following:
“On or about 11/25/2017, [Pinnacle] Manager Anthony Pimental questioned employees regarding signatures on the union representation petition. Anthony asked employees individually if they signed the petition and what other employees signed the petition. Anthony then asked employees to sign his petition resulting in their names being removed from the union representation petition,” wrote Simone.
In the second charge, Simone alleged that three employees were immediately fired following the petition being delivered to Pinnacle.
“Teamsters Local 251 hand-delivered an RC petition on 11/22/2017 to the employer (Pinnacle Logistics) at its facility in North Kingstown, RI. On 11/25/2017, the three employees listed on this charge were terminated. The union seeks 10j injunctive relief,” wrote Simone.
Joshua Baton, one of the terminated employees — who tried to organize workers at the Pinnacle Quonset facility — spoke with GoLocal about his experience.
One Worker’s Story
“I started probably end of October,” said Baton of his time with Pinnacle. “There were three of us that left the company we were previously with — M&D Transportation — because we heard Pinnacle was paying more money, better benefits.”
“So we went down, starting the filling out the application, and before I had my address down, they said, ‘You’re hired,’ which we thought was shady,” said Baton.
Baton said he pressed with questions about benefits during the hiring.
“One of [Pinnacle’s] directors from Chicago gave us promise after promise. Overtime over 40 hours, holidays. We asked about benefits, they said health was great, they said pension options were 401K or stock, so we thought Amazon stock, great,” said Baton. “So we do the drug tests and background checks, and are waiting, while they kept saying, ‘We need you Wednesday.’ We heard they did a mass hire to get up and running, and once they had everyone, they started chopping heads. Meanwhile, we left secure companies. We left secure jobs.”
“The manager who hired us quit, four days later,” said Baton. “I think he got a taste of how they’d run things. He probably realized he had to live in Rhode Island.”
Baton said after he started working, issues regarding overtime — and holiday pay — caused him to seek to organize a union at Pinnacle.
“We asked about sick time, their response was, ‘Don’t get sick,’ said Baton. “They said they wouldn’t pay us for Veterans’ Day, that they didn’t officially recognize it as a paid holiday in Texas. I said you’re in Rhode Island. When you asked about pensions or stock shares, they looked at you like you were crazy.”
“What set us off to organize, was that they fired a whole shift in one day — they canned like 40 people. No one felt secure,” said Baton. “We weren’t asking for anything more than what we were told. We left secure jobs, were told all these promises, they told us a least a 5 year bid. So we bit the carrot.”
“So I talked with a few guys, having worked union my whole life,” said Baton. “I said we’re getting bullied and we have no one to call. So it was like calling your big brother or your big cousin to come in. Mike [Simone] told us the wrongs they were doing.”
“I got signatures from the majority of our drivers,” said Baton, who said the total number at the time was 26-28 drivers. “It probably took me 3 days for the petition.”
Baton said working with Simone, he knew when he could — and couldn’t — approach workers for their signatures.
“At one point we punched out, so we were not on the clock, and we went back to the first shift crew,” said Baton. “Pinnacle said I approached them on company time — but I knew what I could do and couldn’t do. I pulled up in my personal truck and left [the union info] in my truck. We’re all allotted a break we can take when we see fit, naturally I figured they were taking the personal time. If that’s the only thing they have me on, they’re losing a fight.”
“Then I got a call from a dispatcher, who said they heard from [Pinnacle] corporate, who said they’d ‘shut down the operation’ in Rhode Island [if it unionized],” said Baton. “I said why would they tell you? This was scare tactics. He said are you willing to have 300 jobs on your head? I said sure.”
Fired After Thanksgiving
“Bottom line — they knew the petition was coming, I brought the petition to Mike, who delivered it to them the day before Thanksgiving — right before I was fired,” said Baton, who said when he was called in, he was told he had only been on a “90 day probation period.”
“They said I was ‘unsatisfactory.’ I said you just got emails from Amazon and Pinnacle last week and you bought us pizza for how well we were doing,” said Baton. “I said I know why I’m being fired.”
Baton said he has since picked up seasonal work, but for less pay.
“Look, all that we wanted was what we were told,” said Baton. “We weren’t looking for $55 an hour. But Pinnacle comes in and does their thing.”