(NEWARK, N.J.) – Legal counsel for The Professional Mover’s Union, Teamsters Local 814, has filed unfair labor practice charges against Cort Furniture, a Berkshire-Hathaway subsidiary. The charges filed today with the National Labor Relations Board are based on what union officials say was the retaliatory firing of 19 workers, most of whom had spoken out about poor coronavirus safety practices and who had also recently signed cards to unionize.

The fired whistleblowers and their coworkers launched an online petition signed by a majority of the drivers, helpers, and warehouse workers, demanding their reinstatement and adequate safety equipment and workplace protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I was complaining to CORT’s management about protecting my coworkers from coronavirus, but instead of listening, they fired me,” said Walter Infante, a former CORT driver. “Just days after we petitioned for a union election on March 10, subcontracted trucks started coming in to do our work daily. Then, a few days after that, the Area Manager told us that our positions were eliminated because the COVID outbreak meant there wasn’t enough work, even though CORT continues to use subcontracted trucks. We are hopeful that the NLRB will find the Unfair Labor Practice charge in our favor.”

According to workers, the company was slow to provide workers any personal protective equipment (PPE) at all, not handing out anything until March 20. Workers kept asking for better protective gear and new protocols on distancing and other safety measures but were largely ignored, they say. Gloves and goggles were finally issued to some workers, although many workers said the gloves were too small and couldn’t be worn without tearing.