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Labor Board Affirms Finding That Warehouse Workers Were Illegally Fired

On June 30, 2005, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision affirming that 13 Latino warehouse workers, represented by Public Justice Center attorney Ricardo Flores, were fired in violation of their right to protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act.
 
This case began in 2002 when the workers demanded to meet with their boss to complain about discriminatory wages and hours.  The boss refused to meet with them collectively, and then terminated the workers who did not immediately go back to work.  Several of the workers got in touch with PJC attorney Ricardo Flores, who began investigating the case.  The PJC filed charges with the NLRB in October 2003.  The NLRB conducted its own investigation and in January, 2003, issued a formal complaint against the employer.  The case was Elmer Pastora et al. v. HMY Room Store, Inc. The case was tried in May, 2003 before an Administrative Law Judge by an NLRB attorney for the government and by Ricardo Flores for the workers.
 
The ALJ issued a decision in May, 2004 -- a complete victory for the workers.  The ALJ found that the workers who testified were candid and credible, in contrast to the shifting justifications and rationales of the employer. To remedy the situation, the employer was ordered to offer reinstatement to the workers and pay them for the loss of earnings and benefits suffered as a result of the unlawful action.  The employer then appealed to the full Labor Board.  Attorney Flores briefed the case.  The Board has now affirmed the ALJ's decision in full.   The Room Store has since declared bankruptcy, but as part of the bankruptcy proceedings the NLRB negotiated a set-aside of a fund that may be used to pay the workers for their lost wages as a result of the termination.
 
This case illustrates the difficulties that low wage workers, and particularly immigrant workers, have in asserting their rights.  Most workers do not know that they have a federally protected right to take collective action to deal with wages, hours, and other conditions of employment, regardless of whether they are members of a labor union or not.  Few workers have the courage to risk their jobs, because they have seen what happens when they do.  This case also exemplifies why the Public Justice Center takes such cases: we not only want to win the legal relief to which the workers are entitled, but we want to show both workers and employers that workers' right must be respected and that collective action can result in collective benefit.

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