Teamsters: Shelton illegally prevented workers from joining union

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — The city threatened four highway department workers with termination for attempting to join the union, the Teamsters Union 145 claims in a complaint filed against the city.

The complaint, filed March 25 with the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations, says city officials violated the Municipal Employee Relations Act by attempting to intimidate the four employees — hired by the city as full-time “independent contractors” — to prevent them from joining the union.

Teamsters Union 145 Secretary Treasurer Dennis Novak accused Mayor Mark Lauretti of trying to “break the union.”

Lauretti responded by laying blame squarely on union leadership.

“Everybody in the city has a contract except the Teamsters. This is never happened in 30 years, so what’s different?” Lauretti said. “That group of city employees is being controlled by one union rep that is more interested in coming after me than he is sitting down and talking about a contract for our employees.”

Novak said the union, which covers highway department workers and custodians, has not had a new contract since June 2018. The city and union are still operating under the old agreement, and Novak said it is in the hands of an arbitrator.

According to the complaint, the four workers made official notice of their intent to join Teamsters Union 145 between Nov. 5, 2021 and Jan. 25, 2022. By Jan. 27, the complaint states the union sent the documents to the city for authorization.

The city did not acknowledge the membership applications, the complaint states, instead suggesting to the four workers that it would be in their “best interest if they sent a letter to the union asking to withdraw and/or revoke their membership applications.”

The complaint states that city officials prepared the letters in question, then asked the workers to sign and send them to the union.

“After the union informed the city that it would not accept the coerced letters, the city reduced the contractors’ work hours from full time to part time,” states the complaint, adding that on or about Feb. 22, the four received letters signed by Lauretti stating that they would be terminated on March 4.

Lauretti’s letter, according to the complaint, states that the workers’ contracts “require that you work at the direction of my office. Your recent action in joining Local 145 conflicts with the protocol.”

The Teamsters are asking the labor board to reinstate all four workers to their former positions and allow them to enter the union.

Novak said he understands that two of the four have left the city’s employ but was not sure of the remaining two. Either way, he said, the union will continue with the complaint as filed.

Lauretti did not comment on the status of the four individuals.

“The labor law has been violated and the union will not settle for anything less than full reinstatement with back pay and benefits of the four named in the complaint, as in the previous case,” Novak said, adding that the goal is to prevent similar behavior by any municipal government in the state.

This complaint comes on the heels of a state labor board decision stating that the city dealt directly with, and later retaliated against, four other employees.

That decision was handed down Dec. 27 and found the city violated the Municipal Employee Relations Act in its dealing with Teamsters Union 145 and four employees — Steven Nagy, Robert Sura, Carlos Jimenez and Jacob Martin — in its offer to give the four full-time positions in the highway department.

The board — acting Chair Wendella Battey and members Barbara Collins and alternate Ellen Carter — ruled that the city must “cease and desist from dealing directly with prospective employees for bargaining unit positions and conditions of employment and unlawfully retaliating against the union.”

Lauretti stated at the time that he would not appeal the decision.