Concrete workers face hard choices 

Men who had been working 60 hours a week found themselves working 20 to 30 hours a week in the past month as the labor dispute between Donaldson Brothers Ready Mix and its employees continued outside Hamilton.

Last week, the battle culminated in a one-day strike after the National Labor Relations Board found merit with at least some of the employees’ 26 documented complaints against the Hamilton-based sand and gravel company.

More than a dozen Donaldson truck drivers and their families set up a picket line on the side of the highway in front of the business last Wednesday. As passers-by waved and honked at the strikers, at least three local independent truckers hauled sand and gravel across the picket line.

“Some of the trucks he called said they wouldn’t cross the line,” said striker Alan Dukelow of owner Charles Donaldson’s efforts to find interim workers. “Some of them are doing it. One of our complaints has been that since we tried to unionize, the company has left its drivers sitting at home and paid gypos [independent contractors] to haul instead.”

On Thursday, the men who walked the picket line the previous day tried to return to work but were turned away. However, Charles Donaldson allowed them all to return to work the following day, a Friday, and then worked them on Saturday also. The men continued to work this week.

Twenty-three of the company’s employees presented Donaldson with union authorization cards, calling for an election more than two months ago. According to complaints filed with the NLRB, that action set off a series of retaliatory actions against the workers who wanted to unionize. The complaints cite intimidation, lay-offs, firings, reduced work hours, demands that union stickers be removed from clothing and lunch boxes, safety violations, and a refusal to recognize the rights of the workers to unionize.

A hearing before an NLRB judge should take place within the next three to four weeks, according to Operating Engineers Union organizer Sandy Curriero. The NLRB’s report has not been released to the public yet because the attorney who represents Donaldson has not responded to the NLRB since receiving the report last week.

Donaldson has refused to comment on the pending case or any of the pro-union activities at his business.

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