Roughly the time it takes to microwave a frozen meal or play two pop songs back-to-back is all the time a group of union workers say they have for all of their daily bathroom breaks, according to a new complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
During a protest before work last Wednesday, Teamsters union members at the WaterSaver Faucet Co. in Chicago told a local CBS affiliate they filed a complaint with the NLRB over a company policy that penalizes workers for spending more than 30 minutes per week -- which breaks down to just six minutes a day -- for bathroom breaks.
“This year, they installed a washroom monitoring system that basically keeps track of every minute you’re in the bathroom,” Teamsters Local 743 business agent Nick Kreitman told CBS Chicago.
The union said as of June, WaterSaver had already "unfairly" disciplined 19 workers for "excessive use" of the bathroom.
The company, which make faucets on a manufacturing line, reportedly installed a system that requires workers to swipe in and out of the bathroom earlier this year. But the union told Progress Illinois the disciplinary action for going over the bathroom time limit is recent -- and, perhaps not coincidentally, it came after tense labor contract negotiations during which members asked for paid sick days and health care benefits.
WaterSaver owner Steven Kersten told the Chicago Tribune the workers' current contract allows for a 10-minute morning break, a 30-minute lunch and 15-minute afternoon break. Kersten, who admitted to CNN he doesn't have to swipe in to use the bathroom, said the company lost 120 hours of productivity in May due to unscheduled bathroom breaks.
Kersten told CNN that as an incentive to employees, the company has a rewards system under which workers can earn a gift card of up to $20 each month -- $1 a day -- if they don't use the bathroom at all during work.
The union, meanwhile, says monitoring the workers' bathroom time is an invasion of privacy.
"I'm 61 years old," Rudy Dixon, a 33 year veteran of the company, told Progress Illinois. "How are you going to tell me how to use the bathroom?"