Union questions Republic's firing of Hispanic workers

Republic Services says it terminated about 30 Hispanic employees because they were illegal immigrants, but union officials say it was over organizing efforts.

Bob Coyle, president of the Las Vegas-based garbage disposal company, said personnel files of all 1,500 employees were audited beginning in March and 30 of the workers were found to have "questionable" documents.

The workers were suspended and given five working days to return with proper documents such as a photo identification, Social Security card, passport or green card. Only one worker returned and he brought false documents, Coyle said.

"We did not know anthing about a unionizing campaign until after they were terminated," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday.

Most of the fired workers had been employed at Republic Services for five to nine years, said John Phillipenas, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 631. There was never any documentation provided to the local union on their legal status, he said.

Union representatives, including a bilingual organizer from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Los Angeles, were meeting with some of the Hispanic workers, talking to them on their bus ride to work and at the gate of the employer, Phillipenas said.

"This is an organizing dispute," he said. "They knew we were meeting with key people."

Work conditions at Republic are "deplorable," the Hispanic workers told the union.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.