The Teamsters may have lost last week, but they’re not ready to leave Washington’s apple packers yet.
Teamsters spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Monday the union will object to the elections Jan. 8 in Wenatchee and Yakima on the basis of unfair labor practices.
During that day more than half of nearly 300 workers at the fruit-packing warehouses of Yakima’s Washington Fruit and Produce Co. and more than half of about 500 at Wenatchee’s Stemilt Growers Inc. rejected the union.
Still, the Teamsters aren’t ready to give up.
“Our position is that neither one of these elections is going to count because of intimidations and threats to the employees from both companies,” Lacefield said. Workers were threatened with retaliation for supporting the union, he said.
“We feel we did everything right and proper and we followed the rules,” said Kyle Mathison, part-owner of Stemilt who had heard of the charges.
Though they lost, the Teamsters had some affect on the businesses. As they recover from the elections, the fruit-packing companies are now trying to get their houses in order.
“We’re back packing apples as we were before the election and trying to ease the animosity between the pro-union and procompany employees,” said Rick Plath, president of Washington Fruit. He will study issues raised during the campaign, particularly that of improving discourse between supervisors and workers, “…which maybe we haven’t done to the fullest extent before,” he said.
The union has until Jan. 15 to object and call for a new vote. “If they filed objections which we find to have merit, our normal procedure would be to overturn the first election and have a second election,” said Ray Willms of the National Labor Relations Board.
The loss last Thursday is just a setback for the Teamsters and the workers, Lacefield said. “As far as we’re concerned and as far as they’re concerned, too, this was just a bump in the road,” he said.