By Neil Nisperos, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 09/08/16 – 8:09 PM PDT |

COLTON >> Former employees at the Ashley Furniture plant in Colton say they want justice and an apology over a recent mass layoff they see as a betrayal and retaliation for their failed attempt at unionization last year.

In recounting their initial unionization effort, employees alleged unfair labor practices and threats by management to shut down the plant, which employed about 840 people.

In a statement, the company denies the closure had anything to do with an attempt to organize.

“What I remember from last year is they said that they were going to sell the company or close it down if they unionized,” Riverside resident and former Ashley employee John Echavarria, 21, said. The employees assembled couches and love seats.

Among their complaints, Ashley employees had alleged an unsafe work environment, with accidents going unreported to officials and employees prevented from seeking medical help outside the company.

“We’ll be feeling bad or sick, and they’d still put us to work,” Echavarria said. “When we stapled ourselves, they’d just put tape around (the wound), and we would have to go back to work right away.”

Following a request for comment, the company sent a statement that says, “Ashley values employees’ health and has always had a nurse or emergency medical technician (EMT) on staff for every shift at Colton to address employee needs, and refer them to outside medical care when appropriate.”

Oscar Cordova, an agent for the Whittier-based Carpenters Union, Local 721, began to work with the Ashley employees in the fall of 2014.

“Supervisors were applying pressure, saying, ‘If you guys go union, we’re going to lose the plant,’ ” Cordova said. “They started (erroneously) telling the workers if they went union, guys from other companies with more seniority would be allowed to work in Colton before they did.”

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