In another victory against Sysco’s vicious mistreatment of workers, Teamsters Local 528 in Atlanta has won a fired Sysco worker’s job back with full pay and benefits.
The worker, Kip Cortez, a forklift operator with 26 years at Sysco, was fired last October. However, an arbitrator ruled earlier this month that
Sysco violated Cortez’s rights and wrongfully fired him.
Cortez, a Local 528 and chief union steward, was wrongfully fired after the company alleged he failed to follow directions. The company also alleged he failed to perform his job adequately.
“…the Company lacked just cause to discharge [Cortez] for failure to follow instructions/job performance, and the discipline cannot be upheld due to a serious violation of industrial due process,” Arbitrator Kathryn Durham wrote.
The company failed to give Cortez a fair chance to explain his side of the story.
“…[Cortez] was entitled to be confronted with the charges against him and given an opportunity to give his side of the story in the face of those charges. The fact that this did not happen is a serious breach of industrial due process rights which, by itself, warrants overturning the discipline,” the arbitrator wrote.
Local 528 argued that Sysco was unfairly targeting the worker because of his leadership as a chief union steward. The arbitrator agreed there was evidence of retaliation. Witnesses testified that managers said they planned “to get rid of” Cortez just weeks before the union began negotiations for its first successor agreement. Local 528’s first contract with Sysco expires March 31.
“…there are serious undertones, if not outright proof, that Company officials had specifically mentioned wanting to get of the Grievant…,” the arbitrator wrote. “[I am] again uneasy with the heavy overtones of targeting and retaliation considering the less-than-explicit proof of a rule that the Grievant violated.”
Cortez said he appreciates Local 528’s efforts to win his job back.
“Local 528 didn’t blink an eye when it came to fighting for me,” Cortez said. “We had all the evidence and Sysco didn’t have any evidence. The company couldn’t even say for sure what they fired me for. They changed their story several times.”
“We’re pleased that the arbitrator ruled in our member’s favor and saw that the company was wrong,” Local 528 President Maurice Cobb said. “Justice is served, and we will continue to fight on behalf of all our members at Sysco who face mistreatment at the hands of Sysco.”