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DHL-CVG employees rally ahead of union vote later this month

DHL-CVG tug drivers and ramp workers rallied Friday at the corner of Aero Pkwy and Ted Bushelman in Erlanger.
Ann Thompson
Ramp and tug workers at CVG say they load and unload 360,000 pounds of cargo each day and are subjected to working with old, malfunctioning equipment and poor lighting that result in countless workplace injuries.

Workers are demanding safer working conditions and a right to representation.

DHL-CVG ramp and tug employees rallied Friday, demanding the company guarantee safer working conditions and respect their right to representation with the Teamsters Union.

On April 26-28, some 1,100 DHL-CVG workers are scheduled to vote on unionizing. They want managers to remain neutral and stop all anti-union retaliatory actions.

Teamsters Director of Organizing Chris Rosell says DHL workers have been trying to unionize for 16 years, before DHL shut down its operation in Wilmington.

RELATED: A decade after DHL's departure, Wilmington Air Park now nearly full

"We've been fighting hard to get them a fair election and they're working to make sure they win their election," he says.

Eight-year employee Michelle Sanchez hopes a union will force the company to better prevent and treat injuries. She describes a time when DHL was short staffed and she got hurt.

"They never did send help, so it was just me and another girl up there pushing thousand-pound cans and I felt a pop. I know I did something," she says.

She says she had a dislocated shoulder and was initially just given Tylenol.

DHL says it "prioritizes worker safety and welfare, not just at our Hub but in all of our operations."

In an email to WVXU, the company also says, "We recognize our employees' right to unionize within the confines of the law and are fully committed to all agreements we have with our local, national, and international labor partners. We believe that fostering a collaborative and respectful relationship with our employees and their representatives is key to our continued success."

RELATED: Cincinnati officials support Amazon Air unionization effort

According to records obtained by the Teamsters through a Freedom of Information Act request, in 2022, there were at least 22 workplace injuries that required employees be taken to the hospital or an emergency room.

Amazon workers also trying to unionize

A group of workers at Amazon Air is also trying to build support for a union at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport. Tug driver Griffin Ritze says unionization efforts began after Amazon refused to pay them $2 extra an hour like it did last holiday season, and instead offered a 50-cent an hour raise for new workers. That 50 cents was on a graduating scale for existing workers who had been there two years.

"Amazon is a juggernaut in this economy now," Ritze says. "Organizing the unorganized is a key task for the entire labor movement, so it's an all hands-on deck moment right now."

He says Amazon wasted no time in union-busting. He says the company is trying to prevent them from distributing materials in break areas. Ritze tells WVXU he has had to file a couple of unfair labor practice charges against Amazon for interfering in activities protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

Amazon denies doing anything illegal. "Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have," spokeswoman Mary Kate Paradis told our news partner WCPO.

RELATED: DHL and Amazon in our area: competitors or partners?

"As a company, we don't think unions are the best answer for our employees. Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work."

So far, hundreds of Amazon's 4,000 CVG employees have signed a petition to unionize.

Ritze's group wants a $30 starting hourly wage, up from $19.50, and 180 hours of paid time off.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.