LINDEN, NJ — Mendel Schwimmer, owner of Laminated Inc., the paper and cardboard plant located on Brunswick Avenue in Linden, has been hit with more than $21,000 in fines by the Occupational and Safety Hazard Administration.
The six OSHA violations and their corresponding fines were issued March 29, just two days after Schwimmer signed a contract with union representatives ending more than a year of negotiations.
The violations are listed as serious, according to the OSHA report, and include health hazard, sanitation and mechanical apparatus violations.
According to the report, issues had to be addressed by April 24, with fines of more than $12,000 per day accruing for those left unabated.
The OSHA investigation into Laminated was initiated Jan. 6, just hours after LocalSource contacted the agency about its failure to respond to reported violations at the plant.
LocalSource reached out once again to OSHA on March 24 regarding the conditions at Laminated, as well as its delay in addressing these issues. The fines were issued three days later.
Union representatives had initially reached out to OSHA last year, and repeatedly thereafter, regarding the violations but said they had received no response.
But there is more trouble brewing for Schwimmer, as union representatives tell LocalSource that he has already breached a contract with the company’s 45 employees that is only two months old.
According to union representatives from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the contract included a provision that addressed sanitation issues in the plant’s only bathroom for the all-male workforce, stating that it be kept sanitary and stocked with hand soap and toilet paper.
Schwimmer, who has had myriad unfair labor practices complaints filed against him by the union and has been pressured for months by union representatives regarding alleged unfair labor practices and unsafe and unsanitary working conditions at the plant, agreed to the contract right before he was to go before a judge on the unfair labor charges. The charges remain unresolved.
In addition to the bathroom provision, the new contract calls for workers to receive a total of $26,752 in back wages, an hourly raise of one dollar, sick days and three weeks of vacation time.
LocalSource reached out to Schwimmer at the Laminated plant for comments. A receptionist said Schwimmer was not at the plant and that she did not know when he would be in.
LocalSource also reached out to Schwimmer’s attorney, Louis Capozzi, who did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
According to a spokesperson for OSHA, Laminated has contested the citations and Schwimmer has requested a date for a post-contest meeting with the agency.
Danie Tarrow, collective bargaining representative for the union, told LocalSource that according to workers at the plant, conditions in the bathroom have not improved.
“The bathroom is still not clean,” Tarrow said in a recent phone interview. “There’s no soap, no towel, and it’s not clean.”
As to the OSHA violations, Tarrow said that Schwimmer would pay.
“If OSHA doesn’t choke him to do it, we’ll do it,’ she said, referring to the union. “We’ll take it all the way to arbitration because it’s a contract violation. We had to put it in there because we knew he wasn’t going to comply,” Tarrow said of the contract’s bathroom provision.
Tom Walsh, president of RWDSU, Local 262, told LocalSource that Schwimmer has not been allowing union representatives inside the plant.
“He loves playing games,” Walsh said of Schwimmer in a recent phone interview. “I’ve been trying to get in there for over a month and he keeps coming up with excuses.”
According to Walsh, he tried meeting with Schwimmer last month, without success.
“Schwimmer said he didn’t have time,” Walsh said. “He said he and his wife were going away and that he didn’t know when he’d be back.”
During the time period he was supposed to be away, Walsh said, Schwimmer showed up at the plant.
“Danie and I went on premises, and who drives up but Mendel Schwimmer,” Walsh said.
Walsh said Schwimmer then emailed him asking when he wanted to meet; a meeting between the two was finally scheduled for Monday, May 8, “to discuss the bathrooms,” Walsh said.
According to Walsh, the contract is the result of binding arbitration.
“If you violate a binding decision, it’s akin to violating a court order,” Walsh said. “He could possibly get locked up. He’s going to learn one way or another,” he said of Schwimmer.
According to Tarrow, Schwimmer is losing more money than he would have if he had paid his workers more, saying the union, “is burning his money. Schwimmer didn’t want to pay his workers or give them health benefits and now his money is being burned.”