Christine Stuart photo

One was shown a gun, one was fired, and many more were threatened when their employers discovered they wanted to unionize.

Chris Capra (pictured) told Congressman Joe Courtney, D-2, and Congressman Chris Murphy, D-5, Tuesday that 12-hours after she talked to her co-workers about forming a union she was fired. Capra filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board against the company. The company, Federal Direct of Torrington, settled and hired her back, but the incident ruined the union drive.

“The only repercussion for the company was to give me my job back and everything goes away, and that’s not right,” she said.

Peggy Shorey said one of the employees who advocated for a union at Pennant Foods, formerly Chef Solutions, was threatened by a plant manager with a gun when he didn’t accept money from the company for his termination. She said the matter went to court and the North Haven company had to post a sign saying they promise not to threaten anyone again. When the employee finally got his job back the supervisor who threatened him by showing him a gun was still there.

Sharmont Little, (pictured) a worker at Yale-New Haven Hospital said management calls an employee meeting for one reason or another and 15-minutes into it says this is a meeting on labor relations and anyone who doesn’t want to talk about it is free to leave. If you leave the meeting you’re singled out by management as a union supporter, Little said. Click here, and here, and here, to read more from our friends at the New Haven Independent about these captive audience meetings.

Courtney and Murphy said they hope the Employee Free Choice Act passed by the U.S. House earlier this month will help end some of the difficulty many of the employees gathered in Rocky Hill Tuesday had experienced first hand.

The legislation will enable people to form unions when a majority of the employees indicate in writing they want one.  It will strengthen penalties for employers that violate workers’ freedom to make their own choice about a union and it will allow a neutral party to determine a first contract.

Click here to read the legislation.

Courtney said he wished more media were in attendance Tuesday to here te workers’ stories. He said Congress has struggled with the Employee Free Choice Act for years while the United Nations and even the Vatican have recognized how important this type of legislation is.

He said he’s optimistic the legislation will be passed by the Senate. “The law is out of balance and I think the Republicans recognize that,” Courtney said. He said even Connecticut’s Republican Congressman Chris Shays voted in favor of the measure.

Murphy said it’s no coincidence that when people talk about the golden era of the middleclass they go back to the 1950s when unions were more prevalent. He said companies have gotten better at busting up unions and over the last six years Congress has gotten “complicit with union busters.”

He said in addition to this legislation, the Government Oversight Committee he sits on will hold hearings on the National Labor Relation Board’s past decisions to see how they hold up under the act. He said over the past few years they’ve been “perverted” and this Congress is going to hold it accountable for things like the Kentucky River decision. Click here to read more about that case.

At the state level AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Lori Pelletier said they will lobby hard to pass legislation that makes it illegal for employers to hold captive audience meetings used to bust up unions like the one workers are trying to form at Yale New Haven Hospital. At the state level the legislation has passed through the Labor and Public Employees Committee. The real battle with be in the Judiciary Committee, where some of the legislator-lawyers don’t believe these meetings actually occur.