About 25 people protested outside a railyard on Chicago’s Near West Side as part of a labor action under way at a small Bedford Park-based locomotive service company.
Workers at Mobile Rail Solutions walked off the job Wednesday after three employees were let go late last month, some workers said.
The firings came less than a month after employees formally petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to organize under the Industrial Workers of the World union and amount to union-busting tactics on the part of Mobile Rail, the workers claimed.
"Three people fired in three days is an epidemic for a company known for not firing anyone," said Ahern Owen, 38, a Chicago resident and locomotive service technician with Mobile Rail. The company services various railroad company locomotives at railyards across the Chicago area.
Owen and some fellow employees -- including the three recently fired -- joined IWW organizers Saturday outside a Union Pacific rail yard in the 1400 block of South Western Avenue.
The group, which has been staging protests since Wednesday, marched in a circle on the sidewalk, carrying signs and chanting pro-union slogans over the sounds of occasional horn honking from passing motorists.
IWW organizer Sam Green said 15 employees at Mobile Rail Solutions have walked off the job. They will continue to strike outside various Mobile Rail sites until a meeting is scheduled with management, Green said.
"We're requesting they reinstate the three fired workers and prevent future unfair labor practices," he said. "We're prepared to maintain the work stoppage and escalate it if necessary."
Mobile Rail Solutions general manager Timothy Murphy declined to comment because of the pending NLRB petition to hold a union election and because of potential litigation.
"We do not comment on litigation or matters which might result in litigation," Murphy said in an e-mail, adding that Mobile Rail Solutions denies it has committed any unfair labor practices.
Some of the demonstrators claimed the three employees who were fired were also punished in response to safety complaints lodged with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Brian Allen, who was at the protest, said he is one of the three recently fired employees.
He worked for about three months as a "shop helper," performing some maintenance work on company trucks and picking up supplies, Allen, 33, said.
Allen said the company's general manager called him into the office four days after he hurt his finger on the job. The manager told Allen he was being let go because they needed employees with more mechanic skills, Allen said.
He added that the company claimed he had been late to work six or seven times, but disputed that, saying he would often have to wait for a secretary to arrive with the keys to the shop so he could begin working.
"I believe it was retaliation and discrimination for supporting the union," Allen said of his firing. "I was asked about the union efforts and whether I was approached by the union. I was accused of calling OSHA to complain."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun