Teamsters Demand US Small Business Administration Cut Ties with Private Equity Fund Westbury Partners
Union members and supporters protest in front of the Small Business Administration's NYC Office to Call on Federal Agency to Pull Its Investment from Westbury Partners Over Labor Abuses, Other Violations
NEW YORK, NY (05/29/2012)(readMedia)-- Today, dozens of Teamsters, construction workers and community members protested outside the Small Business Administration's regional office in downtown Manhattan calling on the federal agency to pull its investment from private equity firm Westbury Partners in response to ongoing workers' rights violations and anti-union activity at its portfolio company AFL Web Printing.
According to Patrick LoPresti, President of Teamsters Local One-L, the union that represents workers at AFL Web Printing, "we're here to tell the Small Business Administration it's unacceptable for them to continue to invest in Westbury Partners when their portfolio company AFL Web Printing continues to break the law and violate workers rights." LoPresti added, "public money should not be used to break the law and violate workers' rights, plain and simple."
AFL Web Printing is owned by Long Island-based private equity firm Westbury Partners, a company that has received at least $100 million in funding from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) through its Small Business Investment Corporation Program (SBIC).
SBA regulations are supposed to prevent the agency from investing in firms that engage in "activities which are in violation of law or are inconsistent with free competitive enterprise." If a participating fund is found to have violated the SBA's rules, the agency has the power to revoke the fund's SBIC license and cancel their public funding.
Workers at Westbury's subsidiary, AFL Web Printing, voted to join Teamsters Local 1-L in August 2010 after weathering a vicious intimidation campaign during which the company illegally fired six workers for supporting the union and threatened to shut down the printing plant if workers voted to join the union.
On March 27, 2012 a federal judge of the National Labor Relations Board found AFL Web Printing guilty of breaking the law by firing these workers and threatening to shut down the plant. The judge ordered the company to reinstate the workers with back pay and benefits. Since then, AFL has dragged its feet during negotiations. In response Local One-L filed additional Unfair Labor Practice charges against the company on April 6th, 2012, for breaking the law by refusing to bargain in good faith. The NLRB is currently investigation these charges.
AFL Printing also has a history of serious health and safety violations that endanger their workers. On July 18, 2011 the Occupational Health and Safety Administration announced that AFL was being fined $170,000 for safety violations that willfully "put its workers at risk of serious injury and possible death."
Recently, NJ Congressman Bill Pascrell raised concerns about AFL Web Printing's illegal conduct in an April 19th letter to SBA Administrator Karen Mills, calling on the agency to ensure that "AFL Web Printing is not in conflict with the Small Business Investment Corporation's policy goals."
Teamsters Local One-L was joined by other unions at the protest, including Teamsters Local 814. "AFL Web Printing and Westbury Partners have no respect for the basic rights of their workers," said Jason Ide, President of Teamsters Local 814. "The Small Business Administration needs to stop funding these companies now."
Other Westbury subsidiaries have a troubling record of irresponsible activity as well, including Fresh Food Concepts, a California manufacturer of salsa and other dips with a recent history of nationwide product recalls triggered when the company manufactured food that was potentially tainted with dangerous bacteria.
"Our investigation into Westbury and its portfolio companies has revealed widespread abuses and illegal activity that harm workers and consumers," said Patrick LoPresti, President of Teamsters Local One-L. "We won't stop until the federal government pulls its investment from this company."
For more information see AFLWebExposed.org.