Teamsters File Federal Labor Complaint Against Amazon Partner Pinnacle in RI
Thursday, November 30, 2017
Kate Nagle, GoLocalProv News Editor
|An Amazon warehouse|
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.
Amazon delivery flight at T.F. Green
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."
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Uber and Airbnb are arguably two of the most disruptive and innovative companies in the United States and both of their leaders are Providence educated.
RI ranks as the third worst state for retaining its college grads. According to AOL Finance, nearly 70 percent of Rhode Island college grads leave the state.
We produce the smart kids. Amazon would keep them here and bring more in.
Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is a 1991 Brown grad and Airbnb’s CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky is a RISD grad.
Chesky earned a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from RISD in Industrial Design in 2004.
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Amazon will make its selection based on a number of factors, but the number one factor will be who puts the best deal on the table.
Governor Gina Raimondo has given out hundreds of millions of dollars to a sweeping array of companies - Wexford, Virgin, GE, and Johnson & Johnson.
Wexford is still stalled and GE's jobs may be at risk as the company is looking to implement major cost saving measures.
We Have Space
There are not many cities that could host a campus inside the city that could house 50,000 workers, but Providence, with a little creativity, might be able to pull it off.
Between the Superman building, 195 land parcels (and toss in all of Kennedy Plaza) - there is space. Superman can house upwards of 3,000 employees and 195 has 26.41 acres of available land and 6,367,264 square footage.
Who would have thought that our inability to get anything done could turn into a competitive advantage?
Location, Location, Location
Providence is perfectly located to be able to reach more than 55 million people in the Northeast -- and with Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods, there is a greater strategic importance here.
Amazon has added 900 high paying tech jobs in Boston and 1,800 in warehousing and logisitics jobs in Fall River, but Boston cannot provide the space and Fall River cannot provide the educated work force.
The growth of T.F. Green and the addition of nearly 20 direct flights, including international flights is a game changer. A year ago, Green offered 17 direct flights and now it is 35.
Providence's proximity to I-95, I-195, and I-295 gives ground access to the region. In comparison to cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore -- Providence-metro area congestion pales in comparison.
Quonset and the Port of Providence add additional infrastructure resources. Planes, trains, automobiles (and boats) -- Providence is well situated, and accessible. See the next slide.
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For years, economists have talked about Providence's economy being tied to Boston's success. But, Boston is jammed packed, expensive, and nearly at construction capacity.
Boston has one of the five lowest commercial office space rates in America. Hard to see how Boston could add 50,000 workers.
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Amazon's HQ2 would transform Providence and create a much more peer and inter-related regional business powerhouse.
Game Changer - Samuel Slater, Part II
Winning Amazon's HQ2 would be the most transformative change to the Rhode Island economy since Samuel Slater arrived in Rhode Island in 1789.
Rhode Island's political infrastructure can be petty and divisive, but the opportunity to bring in an absolute game-changer might be the motivation for all of Rhode Island to join together.
"Frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out." -- Jeff Bezos