Cincinnati Airgas Workers Authorize Strike Over Cameras, Contract Proposals

Teamsters Local 100 say they are fighting against Airgas placing cameras in workers' restrooms and locker rooms at a Cincinnati facility, as well as contract proposals the group says "would destroy job security and seniority."

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In the latest development in a standoff between Airgas and a local Cincinnati labor union, Teamsters Local 100 announced Wednesday that drivers and plant operation workers have voted to authorize a strike in the northern suburb of Sharonville.

The union said that its members are fighting against Airgas' "insistence on placing cameras" in workers' restrooms and locker rooms at the company's Cincinnati distribution center. A Teamsters' statement also said the group is protesting contract proposals from Airgas that it says would destroy job security and seniority, along with remove workers' right to honor picket lines.

The statement did not indicate when a strike would occur.

According to the union, the group has been without a contract since Nov. 30, 2015, shortly after Airgas announced it would be acquired by France-based Air Liquide. The workers went on a one-day warning strike this past March 11.

"It is outrageous for Airgas to claim that it has the right to place cameras in bathrooms," said Sam Bucalo, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 100. "The Teamsters could never agree to such an intrusion on the privacy of our members, and I can't believe Airgas is demanding this perverted 'Peeping Tom' provision."

Airgas is No. 7 on Industrial Distribution's 2016 Big 50 List.

The union said during its nine months of negotiations so far with Airgas, Teamsters members have had to file more than a dozen unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Airgas management.

"Airgas retaliated against its Cincinnati workers by taking work away from them, threatening to terminate one of the shop stewards if he participated in contract negotiations, and threatening the workers with retaliation for voting to authorize a strike, all of which are serious violations of U.S. labor law," the union's Wednesday statement said.

"Airgas has been abusing workers across America by locking them out during contract negotiations, threatening workers with loss of health care benefits and wages, and attempting to break its workers' unions by illegally threatening union activists," said Keith Gleason, Teamsters Tankhaul Division Director.

Keith Gleason, Teamsters Tankhaul Division Director, said that Airgas' "vendetta" against local workers threatens local hospitals that depend on reliable deliveries of oxyben and other gases.

"Airgas management suggested it might lock out Cincinnati workers and use replacement workers, if union members vote against the company's contract proposal," Gleason said. "Airgas appears to have no respect for either its workers or its customers."

View the union's full Wednesday statement here.

Cincinnati isn't the only location where the union has protested against Airgas. This past February, Teamsters members picketed outside of the company's U.S. headquarters in Houston as shareholders approved the $10.3 billion acquisition by Air Liquide. In August of 2015, Teamsters protested outside the company's shareholder meeting in Philadelphia over what the group called "deteriorating labor relations and discriminatory pay practices."

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