Illinois Ironworkers LAID OFF after unionizing

On Sept. 7, 2021, after a majority of employees had formally expressed interest in unionizing, workers at G&D Integrated LLC—a transportation, logistics, warehousing, and supply chain services company in Central Illinois—marched on their boss together to demand recognition of the union. Their demands were not met. Then workers filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board and voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing with the Ironworkers Union in October. Almost immediately, workers at G&D Integrated reported retaliation from the company, including surveillance, interrogation, discrimination, and direct threats of termination for organizing activity. Then, on March 1, 2022, G&D laid off the vast majority of workers at the Morton, Illinois, facility in a suspected act of retaliation. In this interview, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez speaks with John Hogsett, Vince Di Donato, and Ben Scroggins about the situation at G&D Integrated, what can be done about it, and why the Ironworkers believe this case clearly demonstrates the need for the National Labor Relations Board to revive what’s known as the “Joy Silk doctrine.”

John Hogsett is an ironworker and one of the former G&D employees who was laid off in a suspected act of retaliation by the company after workers voted to unionize. Vince Di Donato is a District Representative for the Ironworkers International Organizing Department. Ben Scroggins is the Ironworkers District Council Organizer for Chicago and the surrounding vicinity.

Pre-Production/Studio/Post-Production: Cameron Granadino


Transcript

The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A corrected transcript will be made available as soon as possible.

Maximillian Alvarez: Welcome everyone to The Real News Network. My name is Maximilian Alvarez. I’m the Editor in Chief here at The Real News. And it’s so great to have you all with us. On September 7th, 2021 after a majority of employees had formally expressed interest in unionizing, workers at G&D Integrated LLC, a transportation, logistics, warehousing, and supply chain services company in central Illinois, marched on their boss together to demand recognition of the union. Those demands were not met. Then workers filed for a formal union election with the National Labor Relations Board and voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing with the Iron Workers Union in October. Almost immediately, workers at G&D Integrated reported retaliation from the company, including surveillance, interrogation, discrimination, and direct threats of termination for organizing activity.

Since that time, workers and union representatives have filed a staggering number of unfair labor practice charges against the company with the tally currently around 150. Then on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022, G&D laid off the vast majority of workers at the Morton, Illinois facility in a suspected act of retaliation.

In a press release from the Iron Workers, Ben Scroggins, district council organizer for the union said, “The iron workers at G&D Integrated were being berated by management daily and wanted to form a union to protect themselves against the abusive treatment by management. They simply wanted to go to work, continue supporting their families without the hostile environment. They stood together. They organized their union for themselves. They put in all the work to try to make G&D a better place to work. And the company’s done nothing to listen or improve things. All they’ve poured their money and time into is building up their attack on employees and hiring union busters to break the union. This is the worst conduct I’ve ever witnessed by a company. This is absolutely about suppressing their rights.”

Now, the case at G&D Integrated has become a pivotal example of why organized labor and its advocates are calling for the reinstatement of what is known as the Joy Silk Doctrine, which used to be a staple of labor relations in this country until it was phased out in the late sixties. Put simply, Joy Silk holds that if a union provides evidence that a majority of workers at a given shop want to unionize, if say a clear majority of workers sign union cards, then the employer should voluntarily recognize the union unless they have good faith doubt about the evidence of that majority support for unionization.

So here’s another section from the same Iron Workers press release. “The Iron Workers Union is also asking the National Labor Relations Board to reinstate a policy known as the Joy Silk Doctrine. The reversal of this policy in 1971, overly burdened workers who’ve already done the work to prove majority support for their union and allowed employers the advantage of time. Again and again, employers use that time to stall, discourage any organizing efforts, and build a campaign to suppress workers’ rights and voices. The union believes under Joy Silk, G&D Integrated would have been in violation of federal labor law after refusing to negotiate with their employers on September 7th, 2021.”

Speaking to the Pekin Daily Times, Kurt Fisher, G&D Integrated’s vice president of client relations, denied claims that the company had engaged in unfair labor practices. The filing of a charge does not in any way constitute guilt. There’s a legal process that has to be followed. And G&D Integrated has not been notified of any findings of any violations of the law with the NLRB. We have not violated any law, and we are eager to see how the legal process plays out. We’re actually looking forward to defending ourselves against any accusations and being vindicated when the legal process is concluded.”

All right. So that’s all the kind of upfront context. To talk about this crucial struggle, I’m honored to be joined by a panel of guests today who are right in the thick of it. And I want to go around the table and ask them to introduce themselves. And then we’ll start talking a bit more about this crucial struggle at G&D Integrated. So why don’t we go around the table, starting with you, John, can you introduce yourself to The Real News viewers and listeners?

John Hogsett: I’m John Hogsett. I was the welder fabricator at G&D. Worked there for two years, no problems really until actually Tony came into the picture and then everything just went to hell. And that’s when all the trouble started with us. So it was just him talking bad about people, talking them down, personal lives, putting their personal stuff out there, which no management should ever do. Sitting there hawk-eyeing people. If it wasn’t fast enough for him, it wasn’t good enough, and he has no idea how fast it took to do that stuff. So it was just complications like that. He had no idea what do, and he was just trying to put a name for himself pretty much. And it went to hell after that.

Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. Well, I’m going to come back around you in a second and ask if you could give us more of that kind of fine detailed view of what was going on inside G&D. But I guess, let’s quickly go to Ben and Vince, if you guys could also introduce yourselves to the good Real News audience.

Ben Scroggins: I’m Ben Scroggins, district council organizer for the Chicago and vicinity district council, work for the International and assisting guys like John to better themselves or work environment with better wages and benefits, representation, and help try to stop stuff like that from happening to him.

Vince Di Donato: And my name is Vince Di Donato. I’m a district representative for the Iron Workers International Organizing Department.

Maximillian Alvarez: Well again, John, Ben, Vince, thank y’all so much for hopping on and chatting with us today, especially with all of this going on. I know this is not an easy time for any of you. John, I wanted to kind of pick up on what you were just saying there. For folks who are watching and listening, before we start talking about the organizing campaign and the retaliation from the company, could you give viewers and listeners a bit more of a sense of the kind of work that you and your coworkers did at G&D. Most of us have probably never been in a facility like that. So what does the day to day look like?

John Hogsett: Well, we go in there. We got a big table. You put a frame together. It’s for the big Komatsu dump trucks. It’s what the deck sits on, where they sit in there inside of it. It sits on that. It’s just the big deck for the top of it. We weld that thing up. It’s a lot of hours to put in one of them. It’s hell to try to make them right to where they want it, straight, flat. And it is just a hard job to do. You’re on your hands and knees all the time, trying to clamp stuff down. It’s hard on your body. And they want you to move as fast as you can. I’d like to see them try to do that. It’s a hard job.

Maximillian Alvarez: And how many folks were working there around September when you marched on the boss?

John Hogsett: Just welders or-

Maximillian Alvarez: I guess how many of you marched?

John Hogsett: I think 17 or 18 of us marched. And I think there was like 20 or 21 together, not positive, but the majority of us marched on.

Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. And can I just ask, in as much as you’re comfortable kind of sharing, what were the conversations happening between you guys that brought you to this point where you’re like, we need to do something. We need to march on the boss and make our demands heard. What were y’all talking about at that point?

John Hogsett: It was mainly the safety stuff because we got tables that are maybe five foot, six foot apart, and we’re picking up with cranes and chains. We’re picking four to 5,000 pounds up on chains and I’ve had one, a shackle break and that thing just came swinging down. It hit the I beam, crushed the welder. If it hits somebody, they’re either dead or they’re not going to move for a while. It is a dangerous situation. And we were trying to get them to situate the tables and everything better so everybody would be safe. They didn’t want to hear that. We tried getting other safety things into play, they didn’t want to hear that. They said, we’d look into it and do all. But it was mainly the thing was safety. And then the way he treated us and spoke about us behind our backs, that was pretty much all that set it off.

Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah, man, that’ll do it. So you’re working in a heavy industrial setting with a very heavy and dangerous stuff moving around. The pace is kind of quickening, thus making it more dangerous. On top of that, you’ve got to deal with managers talking behind your back. Do I have that right?

John Hogsett: Yeah. Because me personally, I know because they told me. I had a little trouble sometime. I was drinking a lot and I missed a couple days of work, whatever, but he was like, well, he ain’t going to be able to drink like that if he ain’t working here. He goes out there and sly ways of saying personal stuff to people. And then just like with Evan and all them, about his medical stuff and all that, it just sly ways of saying stuff about people’s personal stuff that nobody needs to know about. And then he’s just, like a really vindictive type of guy. I don’t know how to say it, if he’s got a little thing for you, he’ll start putting little rumors out and stuff like that and then get people talking. And then he’ll say something like he told me bits about you. And then it gets little fights going. Just stupid.

Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. Basically stirring shit up.

John Hogsett: Yeah. No management should be like that.

Maximillian Alvarez: Well, and speaking of, no management should be like that. So Ben and Vince, I wanted to bring you in here. So can you talk us through when you got the call and what your initial impression was when you were hearing more and more about what was going on at G&D. I guess, could you walk us through the timeline of when y’all got involved, what you saw, what immediately jumped out at you?

Vince Di Donato: So we got a phone call, I believe it was Wednesday, August 27th from one of the workers and talked to him for a little bit on the phone. And I think we set up a meeting that following Friday. Four workers, John was one of them who attended and sat down with these workers for roughly three hours. And I mean, the issues that they had just, it kept coming and kept coming and more and more. And when you thought, when’s it going to stop? It just kept going. Guys had a lot of concerns. They had a lot of issues and they had no friends in there. They had went to their lead and the lead was one of the biggest problems. They went to the plant manager, he wouldn’t listen to the issues. They went to HR, they wanted to file some complaints. HR told them, Hey, listen, everything you say here’s in confidence, nothing will get out.

And a couple of the workers told some things to HR and next thing you know, the manager’s out on the floor razzing the workers about what they said in there to HR that’s supposed to be in confidence. They asked for a meeting with Joe O’Neill, the owner of the company, and Joe flat out refused. He would not even meet with the workers to talk to them about some of the issues they had going on. And to elaborate on what John was saying is these weld tables are roughly five, six feet apart. And you’re always working with somebody, having their back to you. And some of the decks that they’re building, they’re eight to 12 feet wide. And sometimes they’re standing vertical on a table. And if they were to fall over, they’re going to crush the guy right next to them, who has their back turned to them. They’re not going to run. They’re not going to get out of the way.

And so what the workers are telling me is if they turned all these weld tables, 90 degrees, there would never be a worker with their back to another individual, and there was plenty of room in the shop. Management wouldn’t even listen to it. It just fell on deaf ears, just like everything else. So what really struck something with us was we went with four workers on Friday night and they said, “Hey, we’ll bring everybody else tomorrow, Saturday.” And we said, “Well, make some phone calls, find out what’s going on.” And Sunday night at four o’clock, I think we met with 12 out what was 18 workers at the time. And then two other workers just couldn’t attend in that short of notice with ball games or whatever it was with kids. And to me as an organizer, from what we’ve seen, when all of a sudden over 50%, well over 50% of the workforce comes to the first or second meeting and they all have that many issues, and they stand that strong. That says something. That says a lot.

So we met with the workers that Sunday night, and again that following Tuesday. We laid out some options. We said, “With the way the board is right now, you can go in, march, demand recognition. The company could recognize you. And if they refuse, we can still file a petition.” And so the workers ended up picking the day after Labor Day. They said, “Hey, you know what, we’re going to go out. We’re going to enjoy Labor Day. We’re going to have a good time. We’re going to come back Tuesday morning and we’re going to march on the boss.” And so 14 out of the 18 workers marched on the boss. They did hire two new people that day, so technically Tuesday morning, the bargaining unit was 20. And we had a overwhelming majority that marched on the boss, signed a petition and demanded recognition.

And so we were also trying to bring back Joy Silk with this. Why should a group of workers who march on the boss and demand recognition have to waste the board’s time, the resources, the budget that they already don’t have and the resources they don’t have when it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that the majority wants it. So that was some of the things that we noticed right out of the get go.

John Hogsett: Especially the reasoning we wanted it.

Maximillian Alvarez: Well, can I ask about that, John, real quick? Had you, yourself, ever thought about or been part of a union shop before? Was this something that felt new to you guys or, or I guess, what was the kind of feeling at the shop before y’all decided to reach out to the Iron Workers?

John Hogsett: No, I’ve worked at Caterpillar before. It was a union shop, but it’s not as strong as what we had in that shop. Us guys, we stick together. We look out for each other. That’s the strongest bunch of guys I’ve ever worked with. And for something, like the safety issues that we had, it would be hell to have somebody die over that. And they wouldn’t even look at it. They didn’t care. And that was the main thing for us going union. And a lot of us, when I worked at Caterpillar, there’s a lot of us too that stuck together, but not like the guys we had here. And that’s the main thing for a union right there, when people stick together like that.

Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. No, I think that’s perfectly put, man. That’s really what it’s about, right? You and your coworkers having each other’s back, having more of a say at work and not just being told what to do and having your concerns ignored at will by managers who clearly demonstrate by their actions that they don’t take those concerns seriously. And so it feels like things were kind of crazy enough getting up to that point, then it just feels like the shit kicked off even more when y’all marched on the boss, they refused to recognize. So you filed for a union election, which as I think I mentioned in the press release. For folks watching and viewing, we’ve covered this a lot. We’ve talked about, say the unionization efforts that Amazon.

We talked about the Amazon labor union organizing effort at Staten Island. They had to get 30%, they had to cross that 30% threshold of the workers at that facility to trigger a National Labor Relations Board election. Then when the election date is set, that gives Amazon a whole bunch of time to submit workers to these captive audience meetings, for union busting consultants to approach people on the floor, put doubts in their head, yada yada yada. That’s just like what Vince was saying, that the time that it takes between filing for an election and getting to an election, gives the bosses a lot of time to put doubt in people’s heads to, as John was saying, even pit workers against one another by putting all those rumors and talking behind shit people’s back. A lot can happen in that time. But still, if I recall correctly, you guys voted overwhelmingly in that election in favor of unionization. Then what happened?

Vince Di Donato: So even to back it up one second there. So when we filed the petition on September 7th, within I think three days, there was two union busters who were ex-Teamster members in there, at $3,000 a day plus expenses not to exceed $10,000 a month. And so they were there all the way up until the election on October 30th, holding captive audience meetings, one on ones. Started planting seeds in workers head, “Hey, if you guys go union, we’re going to close the shop” making threats along those lines. And there was one worker who was titled a driver, but his job was only to service that fabrication shop. He would go pick up raw material, anything that was built and completed, he would take down to the paint department. He would send to the customer once it was completed. His sole job was to service that fabrication shop. G&D was very nervous, in my opinion, about that driver, because the Teamsters had tried organizing G&D up in Shanahan, Illinois, two or three previous times with no avail.

And so they were very nervous about the driver being in the bargaining unit and winning. And so they did everything in their power to try and get him out of the bargaining unit. And finally the Board put their foot down for like the second or third time. They said, “Listen, we will talk about that worker after the election. If the Iron Workers don’t win the election or the workers don’t vote yes, there’s no need to even have the conversation right now. We’ll have it after the election, see how it turns out.” And that answer wasn’t good enough for G&D. They said, “Hey, hold my beer, watch this.” And they fired David Goodman, just fired him. We’ve got a wrongful termination case on there. We’ve got a charge on that. We have not been heard yet on that. And we can come back to Goodman a little bit later, but I mean, they started their games right away.

Maximillian Alvarez: Well, Ben, I want to bring you in here to give viewers and listeners some perspective on this. Because when I heard that G&D has basically racked up around 150 unfair labor practices charges, my head almost exploded. So could you, for the lay viewer, could you maybe just give us a bit of a crash course on what that significance of that is like, and how it’s possible to rack up so many of these in that short of a time?

Ben Scroggins: Well, I guess the way to rack that up is to just not care about your workers, honestly, or their rights or anything about them. With unfair labor practices, they are crimes, otherwise, it wouldn’t be something that you can propose or something to be investigated. And it’s violating their rights as workers that everybody in the United States have. A lot of it falls back to the National Labor Relationship Act and where it’s all defined. But every day these guys went into work, there was some type of a shenanigan being played by the company to mess with these guys. And all it was was just a mental war to try to get them to break. And like John said in the beginning, I saw that as well. They are the strongest group of guys we had run across in the longest time. They stuck together even to this day.

And seeing that was not only inspiring for Vince and I working this campaign, but had to scare the shit out of the company too. Because when you don’t see somebody break, you don’t just walk away, you just keep ramping up and turning the flames up on the fire. And that’s where all these ULPs came from. When they wouldn’t see these guys break, when they kept putting up resistance and kept moving forward with their wanting this union, they cranked it up and every day was just another thing they would do to them and they were pulling stuff out of the woodwork. It was disgusting.

Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. And John, I was wondering if you could kind of pick up on that. I know we’re covering a big chunk of time here, but basically from the NLRB election to the horrible day when the layoffs happened, could you just give viewers and listeners a sense of the atmosphere in there? What was it like going in? Did you feel that sort of psychological war ramping up? Did you see the layoffs coming? Just paint a picture for us of what it was like for you leading up to that terrible day.

John Hogsett: Me personally, I didn’t see the layoffs coming. I just figured they were going to do what they were going to do to try to get us to break. But some of the things that he was, personally Tony, was doing, when somebody would go to the bathroom, if they were gone for too long or whatever, even if he didn’t see them leaving, if he just came out and seen you were gone however long he was out there, I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough. I was going to take a picture of him. He was looking underneath the stalls in the bathroom. And he would, in the summertime, it’s 115 degrees in there. He would shut the air condition off in the bathroom, just get on some of the new hires, newer hires, not new hires, but newer hires saying they ain’t moving fast enough.

It is just little things that he would nitpick at people. And some of the, especially the quality, they got the quality guy out there nitpicking at stuff that we’ve never had done. I can’t even think of something that he would nitpick at, but just something minor he would nitpick at that, saying Komatsu said this, said that. Never in the two years I’ve been there and the six years that Ron’s been there, has never said anything about it. And yeah, it was just after the vote and everything, when they knew they screwed up, that we want this and we ain’t backing down, they started doing their little nitpicking stuff. And we didn’t back down from them though. We just kept doing what we were doing, did what we did. Same amount of time, if not faster, because I think we ended up getting stuff done faster because we finally figured out the way to do it. And we had a good team. And they gave us so much grace before this. And then after the election and everything, it was just, oh quality and productions shit. So I don’t care for him.

Maximillian Alvarez: I can tell. And I think that’s a perfectly natural human response to that kind of treatment. If you’re comfortable talking about it, again, one of the things we really try to stress here at The Real News on my show, Working People, is we’re not just talking about name tags and job titles here. We’re talking about human beings with lives and families.

John Hogsett: Can I speak on something real quick?

Maximillian Alvarez: Yes, please.

John Hogsett: Well, an example of the quality guy. He was having me train people how to weld like I was weld. And then all of a sudden after we had that vote, I got rode up for qual. I’ve never in two years ever been wrote up for anything. I mean nothing, missing days, nothing. And I get wrote up for quality. First thing, my quality has been excellent. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a good welder. I guess it was Joe O’Neill or somebody made him do that, but I got wrote up for quality for something. A missing part that didn’t even have nothing to do with me. So I just wanted to add that in.

Maximillian Alvarez: No, no, I appreciate it, man. And just to pick up what I was saying, because what we’re hopefully kind of getting across to people here is when we talk about these unfair labor practices charges, what that translates to is this kind of day to day bullshit where you’re getting written up for stuff that has never been a problem before, where the atmosphere at the place where you spend most of your waking hours becomes more hostile. That creeps into your brain, that goes home with you, that impacts the relationships that you have, yada, yada, yada. And that’s what I was just kind of getting at is I hope folks watching and listening kind of understand the real human stakes of what we’re talking about here, especially when we get to the layoffs and what the tremendous toll that takes on people and their families. And I was just going to ask, John, if you’re comfortable, if you could just say a little bit for listeners of what the fuck happened and how it impacted you and your coworkers when these layoffs happened.

John Hogsett: I can’t really say so much for the coworkers, but it took a toll on my family because my wife’s got a good job, but I was the money and it’s gone now. I just got to do unemployment now, try to make money where I can and they fucked us. That’s all I can say without getting all emotional.

Maximillian Alvarez: Oh man, again, I really appreciate you sharing this. I know this isn’t easy. This is why we need to care. This is why we need people to know about this story, because if you’re racking up all these unfair labor practice charges, if you’re laying off this many people in suspected retaliation of banding together and organizing, that is a tremendous injustice that people need to know about and people need to be held accountable for. And so Vince, Ben, I wanted to kind of bring you back in here to talk about the layoff specifically and how that fits into all of this, what the company is saying and what that meant for the campaign once this happened.

Vince Di Donato: Well, the company, before the election, made threats, if you guys vote yes, we’re going to close the doors. And then that message changed after the election, after the workers voted yes. The message went from upper management to the workers of, “Hey, good job. Now we’re all going to have to start looking for jobs.” And so that message started turning into now, there’s going to be actually some action behind it. Negotiations were to be expected. They wouldn’t really negotiate over anything in the beginning. We tried to negotiate over the termination of David Goodman. That way we didn’t have to go into the courtroom with the board. We could settle it right there. They refused to negotiate over anything that had an unfair labor practice on it.

And at that point, I think we were sitting around 75 or 80 unfair labor practices, and it’s kind of like, well, wait a minute, if you’re not going to negotiate on anything that has an unfair labor practice, are you even going to negotiate at all because the more you keep breaking the law, the less we’ve got the negotiate here. And then that message at the first of the year turned into, we are going to close the doors. We lost some customers. We don’t have the work. And they were always kind of positioning that they were going to close the company. They’re not closing the company to the fullest extent. They still have some other shops. The paint department under this umbrella of G&D Integrated Manufacturing. They’re technically not closing the business down right now. They’re not dissolving it. And so they came in March 1st, 1:20 in the afternoon, they tapped all the workers on the shoulder. They told them to go to the front of the room, they were going to have a meeting. And when the workers went up there, they said they were outnumbered roughly two to one. There was roughly two to three management people per one worker. The company read a letter that said that they’ve lost all the work. Today’s their last day, go grab your personal effects, leave and don’t ever come back.

John Hogsett: And they wouldn’t let us see it.

Vince Di Donato: Yeah. And Evan Way was one of the workers that said, “Hey, listen, I’ve got one of these parts hanging on the crane. It’s got chains on it. It’s sitting on the table. It’s unsafe. You want me to take it off the table and at least lay it down where it can’t kill somebody?” And they said, “Nope, your stuff, leave. Don’t ever come back.” And they walked them out, but all but two and those two are now gone also. And ironically, the company, when they set the last negotiations that we had for April 22nd, they conveniently laid the last worker off basically the afternoon prior, two afternoons prior to negotiations. And when they came in, they said, “Bargaining is gone. We’re not going to negotiate.” So that’s where its right now, in a nutshell.

John Hogsett: When they laid us off, I had a 4000 pound tank hanging there on the crane.

Ben Scroggins: So setting that back on too, nothing really changed on the day to day as far as like the workers throughout that company. There wasn’t like there was a demand for an influx of more money. They didn’t even get to negotiate anything really. They just steadily pulled work, closed the doors on them.

Maximillian Alvarez: Just to put into perspective for folks, because I feel like this is a kind of story that folks maybe have heard, especially if we’re talking about the industrial Midwest and what not. Could you just say a little more for folks watching and listening, there’s a long established precedent here of basically responding, blaming unionization efforts, blaming workers for banding together for places shutting. This is what I heard all the time growing up. I was in Southern California, but I was a very conservative guy. I had always heard that basically it was the unions that ruined Flint because the unions asked for too much and the poor auto companies couldn’t keep up and so they had to close and kill the city basically. Could you just say a little more about how this is not a one off, this is actually a big part of the kind of terrain that we’re talking about when we’re talking about workers trying to organize their workplace.

Vince Di Donato: So, I got to add to this and I’m quote Courtland Davis. He is one of the workers that worked at G&D with John. And what upsets John the most is, when the workers called us, this was not about economics. Money was not really an issue. In fact, I actually brought up money to the workers after the fourth meeting. I said, “Hey, when we’ve talked about issues and things you want fixed, nobody’s ever said anything about money yet.” And they said, oh, we decent money for the area. And Courtland will still say that G&D did all this. They hired two union busters in the beginning, brought in a third to try and negotiate or get out of a contract. They already had a law firm, Davis Campbell, which is based in Chicago and Peoria, Illinois. And then they hired Jackson Lewis the week before they walked the workers out, which is a national law firm known for union busting.

And Courtland said, “They never, ever even listened to what we wanted. Joe O’Neill, the owner, refused to meet with us to find out what this is even all about.” He said, “This could have been $1 an hour that we were asking for.” 20 workers, $20 an hour. And G&D has spent millions of dollars on union busters, millions of dollars of taxpayers by the time this goes through the court system and everything else with the NLRB and has done this to 20 different families in this area over what, because they never even had the opportunity to tell Joe O’Neill, G&D what they even wanted. That’s the main problem here.

Maximillian Alvarez: So I want to finish up by asking how folks are doing now and what viewers and listeners can do to show solidarity with John and his coworkers and what the state of things are right now. But I would be remiss if I didn’t ask Ben, Vince, I know that Joy Silk is pretty in the labor weeds. A lot of labor nerds know what it is and unionists know what it is, but for the average person, they’re just like, what the hell is that? But obviously, as y’all have been saying at the Iron Workers, this is a pretty clear case of why it’s important. And even the Jennifer Abruzzo, the head of the National Labor Relations Board has called for the reinstatement of Joy Silk, so it’s on people’s minds. So Ben, what does it mean? Could you say a little more about what Joy Silk is and what it would mean in this case at G&D if it was still the law of the land?

Ben Scroggins: Joy Silk basically trims that timeframe down from, you’re overwhelming demand for recognition, when everybody’s standing in front of the boss and you can’t deny it. That’s all your employees, minus maybe a couple. And they want the same thing. And Joy Silk was the doctrine where you start negotiating then. But prior to that, and then after it was set aside, there’s that timeframe gap now to where you march on the boss, he gets to see, these are all the people I need a crush. And then he sets that timeframe up for union buster, these unfair labor practices. And just because an unfair labor practice, it gets tagged with a case number or something, it ruins people’s lives by their mentality and how they’re trying to move forward in a day to day aspect. They’re humans and that constant beratement, it damages the families that they go home to.

So Joy Silk is more than just some workers trying to get more money. It’s bringing back that timeframe where they’re not being tortured for months on end with that day in and day out constant mental attack that they also spread through their friends and families and stuff. It’s huge. And to take that timeframe and turn it back down to where when everybody has enough courage to go in and say, we’re together, let’s do this. That’s when you’re supposed to start negotiating. But instead, in this case, it was given more time to abuse the workers, put them through hell and then gain enough strategy to where they could find an exit for themselves to get rid of the workers and to go ahead and crush their lives.

Maximillian Alvarez: And yeah, that’s well put. Again, if you show clear definitive evidence that a majority of folks at a shop are in favor of unionization, marching on the boss. And like you said, if you’ve got 12 or 13 out of 18, that’s a majority, or if you’ve got that many union cards signed, it’s a clear majority. And so then it would basically, really fast track the process of forcing the employer to recognize the union, instead of going through this long, drawn out NLRB election process, during which time you can essentially engage in psychological warfare and demoralize people and pit people against one another, yada, yada, yada. So that’s super helpful and I appreciate you guys really laying this out for us. And I don’t want to take more of your time, but I wanted to just kind of round things out by asking where things stand now, how folks are doing and what folks watching and listening here can do to protest this injustice, to show solidarity with John and his fellow workers.

Vince Di Donato: So we are still trying to negotiate a contract for the workers. Our stance and the company’s stance are obviously two different things. We are talking to the board every day, about 10-J injunctive relief and a few other things. Hopefully this will be the case that can move Joy Silk forward for all the workers in the country. One thing that we’re doing right now, and we’re asking to help the workers is follow G&D Integrated union, the website, look for further actions, support these workers. Get on Ironworkers Rising. You’ll see some stuff for G&D on Ironworkers Rising Facebook and social media. Follow that. We’re going to have some events to come, hopefully, and some different things going on. And we’re definitely, this story is going to continue. G&D might think this is over, that’s just going to be one more thing they’re wrong about, because this is far from over. And I can tell you right now, these workers are far from being done with this. This is one of the best group of iron workers I’ve seen a long time. They’re strong. These guys are getting some jobs. They’re moving forward. We’re going to make things better and we’re going to keep fighting. That’s what we do. We won’t back down.

Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. And John, do you have any final words for folks watching, folks who maybe want to organize their workplace or for G&D?

John Hogsett: Stay strong, stick together. Don’t let them back you down. Don’t let them fuck your livelihood up. It’s tough.

Maximillian Alvarez: Well, I really, again, appreciate you coming on and sharing with us, man. And we are sending love and solidarity to you, to everyone who was laid off, to everyone with the Iron Workers. Thank you all so much for taking time today to talk us through this.

For The Real News Network, this is Maximillian Alvarez. Before you go, please head on over to therealnews.com/support, become a monthly sustainer of our work so we can keep bringing you important coverage and conversations, just like this. Thank you so much for watching.

Maximillian Alvarez

Editor-in-Chief

Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
 
Email: max@therealnews.com
 
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