Court orders Tucson rail rehab shop reopened, workers rehired

2014-05-06T00:00:00Z 2014-07-13T15:50:09Z Court orders Tucson rail rehab shop reopened, workers rehiredBy Patrick McNamara Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Some Tucson-based metal workers who lost their jobs in a fight to unionize likely will get put back to work.

A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Greenbrier Rail Services must reopen its closed Tucson facility and rehire the employees who were laid off in November 2012.

“It’s good news for the workers,” said Greg Suydam, a representative with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers union in Phoenix.

Greenbrier closed its Tucson facility, located at 3390 E. 36th St., in December 2013. The company had previously laid off nearly 30 workers in November 2012.

The court lifted the temporary stay a district court put in place and ordered the company to restore operations at the facility and rehire the affected workers. Greenbrier had until the end of business Monday to comply with the order.

“Greenbrier is complying with the orders issued by the U.S. District Court related to its Tucson operations,” company spokesman Jack Isselmann said in an emailed statement.

The order comes out of a complaint the National Labor Relations Board filed on behalf of the workers and the union.

That complaint said Greenbrier, an Oregon-based company that provides equipment and repair services to the railroad industry, actively fought unionization efforts of employees and retaliated against those who tried to garner support for organization.

Among the complaints, workers said company management interrogated them, solicited complaints from co-workers, and promised special benefits to those who voted against joining a union.

The affected workers also said company officials threatened to close the facility if union efforts went forward, saying a major client would only do business with nonunion shops.

At the time of the district court ruling in March, Isselmann said the Tucson shop had been underperforming and lacked enough work to keep it afloat.

Some workers from the Tucson facility took jobs at other Greenbrier locations in other states following the closure.

Company officials have also noted that unionization efforts at the Tucson plant failed to gain enough support on two occasions.

In a sworn statement filed in federal court, a Greenbrier representative said the company had offered to rehire the affected employees at their old jobs or equivalent ones.

If the Tucson operation doesn’t have enough work for the employees, company officials said they would bargain with union representatives to have workers’ names placed on a “nondiscriminatory preferential recall list.”

Suydam said he has been in regular contact with the workers, and about eight have been rehired at the formerly shuttered facility here. They have been working to get the plant prepared to start refurbishing railcars again.

He said the workers behind the union efforts were not attempting to get more money from the company.

“All they wanted to do is to work safer and have better insurance benefits for their families,” Suydam said.

He said the ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court forcing the company to reopen the facility is one he and his colleagues had not seen before.

“It’s extremely unusual,” Suydam said.

Isselmann said the company questions the court ruling and intends to continue its appeals.

“Greenbrier is appealing the orders, which were granted without a hearing, because Greenbrier believes they are not supported by the facts or the law,” he said in the statement Monday.

The company also intends to continue its legal proceedings against the NLRB, which Isselmann said had violated its own administrative proceedings in its actions against Greenbrier.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at pmcnamara@azstarnet.com or 573-4241. On Twitter @pm929

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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