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(Kent, WA) – Workers at the Davis Wire mill in Kent (S 194th St & 80th Ave S.) went on strike early this morning in response to mass layoffs and other unlawful actions by the company. Picket lines were established at 6AM.
The company laid off 27 employees at the Kent facility – nearly a third of its unionized workforce – just three days after a strike vote. Workers overwhelmingly voted to strike on May 12; the company laid off workers on May 15.
“I have no doubt that these layoffs are retaliatory in nature. For Davis Wire to purposely destroy workers’ livelihoods and eliminate local manufacturing jobs in an economy that is struggling to recover is unconscionable,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.
According to Thompson, Davis Wire threatened to move work out of state and close down the Kent facility unless the Union agreed to the company’s terms in bargaining.
Local 117 has filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that the layoffs represent a violation of federal labor law. In the last month, the company has been accused of eleven additional violations of the law, including bad faith bargaining, worker surveillance, worker intimidation, and illegal threats to shut down the facility in Kent.
In addition to the Unfair Labor Practice charges, workers have joined a class-action lawsuit accusing their employer of denying them the right to take rest and meal breaks and working employees without paying them over a three year period.
The complaint, which was filed in King County Superior Court on April 30, describes sweatshop-like conditions, in which employees were pressured to work 12-hour shifts without a break and eat lunch at their work stations while operating dangerous machinery.
Davis Wire is one of four manufacturers in the Heico Wire Group. Over the last few years, four workers have been killed in industrial accidents at Heico facilities across the country. At the Kent facility, workers have suffered serious injuries, including wire punctures, broken bones, and mangled fingers. Last week a machine operator was injured and hospitalized after his hand got caught between two spinning rollers of a fabric machine.
The 85 workers at the Kent facility have been without a contract since December 1 of last year. Davis Wire also operates plants in Irwindale, CA and Pueblo, CO. Some of the company’s major customers include Home Depot, Lowe’s, and several major construction companies.