Man Alleges Union Made Him Homeless

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As workers at the Boeing plant in South Carolina prepare to vote on whether to unionize, Greg Staffa alleges the same union made him homeless.

“The union keeps saying you need us,” Staffa told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “That’s one of the reasons why I am speaking out.”

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board approved a request by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to hold an election at the Boeing’s 787 production facility in North Charleston. Staffa alleges despite the rhetoric that the Boeing workers need union representation, the same union failed to be there for him back when he was a member.

“I got frustrated from what I was hearing in South Carolina,” Staffa noted. “I was thinking, ‘Where was that when I was a member?’”

Staffa recalls how the union failed to properly represent him twice when he worked for Northwest Airlines in Minnesota. The second time, he alleges, led him to lose his job and house.

“At one point the company shorted about 4 employees thousands of dollars,” Staffa detailed. “The union filed a grievance on our behalf.”

At the time the airline industry was in flux as it was trying to deal with the aftermath of 9/11. Knowing this Staffa understood how it could have been possible to have been overlooked. Nevertheless, Staffa counted on IAM to get what he deserved.

“Several weeks later I got a letter saying our grievance had been dropped as part of a deal with the company in order to get something the union wanted,” Staffa proclaimed. “The union used members as bargaining chips.”

Even after asking the union, Staffa never found out what the deal was. However it wasn’t until 2006, when Staffa got injured on the job, that things got really bad.

“I was injured on the job and for 9 months I was on work comp,” Staffa noted. “There was guidelines that were laid out in my union contract and company that were being followed at the time.”

Eventually the company decided to bring in a different doctor who after examining Staffa determined his injuries were the result of his weight and therefore he did not qualify for worker’s compensation.

“Dr. Helms confirms that the current work restrictions are appropriate, but the need for the restrictions is due to your underlying and personal condition, and the restrictions are not related to the work injury from September 7, 2006,” a letter from Liberty Insurance, which was obtained by TheDCNF, detailed.

This prompted Staffa to file a lawsuit, determined to show his injuries were work related, not weight related. In 2008, Judge Peggy Brenden determined Staffa’s weight had nothing to do with the injury.

“The Fat Report was a bit shocking,” Staffa noted. “The judge ruled and my weight had nothing to do with it.”

At this point all IAM had to do was file a grievance with the company to get Staffa his job and pay back. Staffa alleges the union did nothing because it was putting its full attention towards the Northwest/Delta Airline merger.

“I made several attempts to contact the union and they just said they were too busy with the merger and that I should just be happy with what I got,” Staffa continued. “The company was just as surprised as I was that nothing was being done.”

“Where was the solidarity? Where was my union brothers?” Staffa declared. “Where did my $40 a month for nine years go because it wasn’t to help me?”

Staffa notes the lower management within the company was actually trying to help him throughout the process despite the lawsuit. There was only so much they could do though. The system was set up so Staffa could not make deals with his company directly and had to work with the union.

“They build this wall, it’s a verbal wall and also a physical wall,” Staffa said. “If you go around the union you’re on their bad side.”

Unable to get help from his union and no longer able to receive worker’s compensation despite a court ruling in his favor, Staffa lost his job and his home. Staffa blames the union’s inaction.

“I had lower level management bending over backwards trying to help me,” he continued. “It was the management that was helping me and the union that was setting up hurdles.”

“No one has been able to tell me why not one grievance has been filed,” he concluded. “The only reason I am anti-union is because they abandoned me. They abandoned me, I didn’t abandon them.”

It was actually a labor dispute with IAM that compelled Boeing to open its plant in South Carolina instead of Everett, Wash. Boeing was founded in Seattle. A New York Times article from 2011 notes the conflict got so bad, the NLRB accused Boeing of illegally setting up shop in South Carolina to escape union organized strikes. However, some lawmakers became concerned that the NLRB telling Boeing it could not move would set a bad precedent.

After the incident, Staffa began traveling around the country to raise awareness for the homeless. Currently he works temporary jobs.

TheDCNF could not reach IAM for further comment.

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