Wendt Corp. employees rally for first union contract, prevent layoffs

Wendt Corporation employees represented by Iron Workers Local 576 hold a lunchtime informational picket outside the business on Walden Avenue on February 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Wendt Corporation employees represented by Iron Workers Local 576 hold a lunchtime informational picket outside the business on Walden Avenue on February 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – Newly unionized Iron Workers at Wendt Corporation on Walden Avenue wrapped up a week-long rally Thursday calling attention to the lack of a union contract with the company and the potential for layoffs as retaliation for forming a bargaining unit.

A six-year veteran of the company and organizing committee member William Hudson tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that around 30 blue collar workers organized a bargaining unit with Iron Workers Local 576 last June.

Wendt Corporation employees represented by Iron Workers Local 576 hold a lunchtime informational picket outside the business on Walden Avenue on February 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Wendt Corporation employees represented by Iron Workers Local 576 hold a lunchtime informational picket outside the business on Walden Avenue on February 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

“The blue collar workers weren’t treated as well as the white collar workers.  There was favoritism – people were being fired and written up for the same thing office workers were doing,” said Mr. Hudson.

Wendt Corporation at 2555 Walden Avenue manufactures shredders and recycling equipment for junkyards and scape metal facilities.  The mobilizing Iron Workers say Wendt management has met with the union around 20-times to negotiate their first contract but those meetings have proved futile.

“We’re not asking for a lot.  We want respect, a little bit of a wage increase – they don’t want to give us anything.  It took us months to get a little spot on the bulletin board.  They’re doing everything possible to make this go away,” added Mr. Huson.

Cheektowaga Chronicle reached out to Wendt Corporation for comment early Thursday afternoon but the company has not responded to our request for comment as of publication Friday morning.

The Iron Workers held daily lunchtime informational rallies outside the business over this past week with local unions and politicians standing shoulder to shoulder with them.  Communication Workers of America members and State Assemblymember Monica Wallace and State Senator Tim Kennedy were in attendance Thursday.

State Assemblymember Monica Wallace addresses Wendt Corporation employees represented by Iron Workers Local 576 during a lunchtime informational picket outside the business on Walden Avenue on February 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
State Assemblymember Monica Wallace addresses Wendt Corporation employees represented by Iron Workers Local 576 during a lunchtime informational picket outside the business on Walden Avenue on February 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

“We’ll do whatever it takes, we’ll stand here for as long as it takes and we’re not going to leave your side until you get treated fairly, until you get a contact that you can live with and you get a contract that’s right and fair for you, your families, and our community,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy.

The union said the company is outsourcing their jobs to Mexico and to a unionized contractor in Rochester.

“So the Wendt’s will pay a union wage, just not to its members here – that’s disgusting,” said unionized Wendt employee Jeff George. “They’re intimidating us, they’re harassing us, they’re writing people up that voted for the union.  They’re trying to get the guys out of here who voted for the union and next Friday is supposed to be the first round of layoffs to get all the yes votes out of the shop.”

The company told union members the pending layoffs are the result of a decrease in business according to the Iron Workers.  The union says Wendt is moving 70 percent of the manufacturing work union members do to a unionized Rochester contractor in an effort to fabricate the layoffs.

“It’s very unfair, it’s a way to break the union.  They broke a union 20-years ago and the same guy is trying to break this union,” said Mr. Hudson.  “Once [the union] went away they laid everybody off who was apart of it and hired a new crew.  So I think that’s what their plan is right now.”