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UE: Locals 115 and 155 Secure Strong Union Rights During Immigration Audits

From UE News | Photo Courtesy of | UE News Reuse Policy

WHARTON & IRVINGTON, NJ—Both Refresco and Chasen Fiber Technologies thought they could intimidate their mainly immigrant workers — who are members of UE Locals 115 and 155 respectively — by running internal I-9 audits. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), employers are required to verify an employee’s identity and their eligibility to work in the country within three days of hiring them. However, employers have the right to audit their own records for compliance, quality, accuracy, and to comply with business contracts. At Refresco, companies like Pepsi, Coke, Walmart, and other providers have the right to view employee I-9 documents. 

UE members at both Chasen and Refresco were able to win explicit audit procedures requiring advance notice to the bargaining unit and to the union prior to implementing the audit, notification of the union when external companies request to view I-9 documents, a specified time period where an employee is able to correct any discrepancy with their documentation, and translation of all notices into English and Spanish.

“We were able to correct everyone’s I-9 forms and the employees were able to keep their jobs,” said Carlos Quinones, vice president of Local 155 and shop chief steward at Chasen. “On the agreement, the company pretty much agreed to everything. They can’t share information to a third party and they can’t ask for papers for three years, and they would have to notify the local union before any type of decision is made. The members were also satisfied with the agreement.”

Chasen agreed to give a six-month notice prior to implementation of an audit and expiration of any work permit, a window of two years where an employee that was fired for not being in compliance with the I-9 documents could be rehired if there was an available position, and not to use E-Verify unless the Company’s participation is required by law. Prior to implementing E-Verify, Integreon (the parent company of Chasen) must demonstrate that the creation of a position or participation in optional government programs could not be facilitated through other Integreon subsidiaries. 

At Refresco, workers were able to win strong protections for fired workers. The Company fired two workers for having expired work permits, one of which was a member of the Local 115 executive board. With this side agreement, both workers will be reinstated if they demonstrate tghat they are authorized to work in the country within a year of their termination. Going forward, if a worker is not able to produce the required documentation during an audit, they will be placed on a four month leave of absence where they can gather the documentation. Most importantly, this means that workers can keep their healthcare coverage. 

The Local 115 side agreement was negotiated by President Abdon Moran, Chief Steward César Moreira, and Ivan Rios. The Local 155 side agreement was negotiated by Vice President and shop Chief Steward Carlos Quinones. Both locals were assisted by Field Organizer Eric Cortés-Kopp.

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