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Limited to 6 Minutes of Daily Bathroom Use, Teamsters Local Takes Chicago Employer to NLRB

Workers protest bathroom rules, lack of bargaining by WaterSaver.

Workers protest bathroom rules, lack of bargaining by WaterSaver.

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In Chicago, a showdown over bathroom breaks between WaterSaver Faucet Company workers and management has made its way to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  New regulations from the company allots six minutes per day for each employee to use the bathroom and violators are being forced to discuss their bathroom activities and face discipline including suspension and termination.  The local Teamsters union argues that this is an invasion of privacy.  

Workers are currently negotiating a new contract that seeks better pay and sick days, and having to clock in and out of the bathroom is now major point of contention in the talks.  Steve Kersten admitted to CNN that as CEO he does not have to live by the same bathroom code as his employees:

The union, Teamsters local 743, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming WaterSaver unfairly disciplined 19 workers in June for “excessive use” of washrooms.

The company’s human resources department described “excessive use of the bathroom as… 60 minutes or more over the last 10 working days,” according to the affidavit. Do the math and it works out to 6 minutes a day.

The controversy goes back to last winter when Water Saver installed swipe card systems on bathrooms located off the factory floor.

The company said it had little choice because some employees were spending way too much time in there, and not enough time on the manufacturing line.

Kersten says that 120 hours of production were lost in the month of May due to bathroom breaks.  The out-of-touch company head decided to implement a “rewards” system wherein workers who ‘hold it’ get gift cards of $1 a day up to $20.  Nick Kreitman, the union representative at WaterSavers, says this new system is an invasion of privacy:

“The company has spreadsheets on every union employee on how long they were in the bathroom.  There have been meetings with workers and human resources where the workers had to explain what they were doing in the bathroom,” he said.

It’s unreasonable given that the human body can’t always perform on cue, Kreitman said. Besides, he pointed out that the company’s 140 workers don’t have paid sick days. Workers who can’t afford to lose a day’s pay come into work sick, and may end up using bathrooms more, he said.

Kersten admits that he is only speculating about bathroom abuse, which could hurt his company in the eyes of the NLRB:

“Our supposition is that some of the behavior is related to cell phones and texting… although I have no hard evidence,” he said, pointing out that cell phones are banned on the factory floor.


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