ALBANY, Ga. (June 3, 2005) — Hourly employees at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Albany radial tire plant will vote June 7-8 on the potential unionization of the work force.
The United Steelworkers union is attempting to organize workers at the facility, which Cooper has operated as a non-union factory since 1991. About 1,000 employees should be directly affected by the vote, said USW Organizer Lugertha Sharpley, who is leading the union's effort in Albany.
Eligible workers can vote via secret ballot on either day from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or 5 to 9 p.m. at the Bull Pen Room at the Cooper facility, she said.
The USW—then the United Steelworkers of America—previously made an attempt to run a campaign in 2002, but not enough people were interested, Ms. Sharpley said. This time, a group of workers called the union back in October and the campaign started in February, she said.
The areas in which the union is trying to help the workers make improvements include wages, safety and working conditions, sick leave, insurance premiums and retirement, Ms. Sharpley said. The employees once had a defined retirement benefit plan that the company dropped. Their insurance premiums recently increased dramatically as well, she said.
Cooper wouldn't comment about the details of the organization attempt, but Patricia J. Brown, the company's vice president of global branding and communications, said the Findlay, Ohio-based tire maker doesn't believe a union is in the best interests of the plant, the employees or the Albany community.
The Albany factory previously was organized under the United Rubber Workers when the site was owned by the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. Bridgestone Corp. shut the facility in the late 1980s after it bought Firestone, and Cooper acquired the plant in 1991.
Ms. Sharpley said the campaign is “looking good so far,” and supporters have been working hard handbilling and trying to get the word out regarding the election, Ms. Sharpley said. Groups of workers from Cooper's Findlay and Texarkana, Ark., sites—already under USW representation—have come to help during the election as well, she said.
The company has been sharing facts about union representation with the employees to help them make an informed decision, Ms. Brown said. No matter what happens in the election, Cooper always has had a good relationship with the people in Albany and expects that to continue, she said.
The Texarkana local ended a one-month strike in April after coming to terms with the company on a new five-year contract that expires in 2010. The workers in Findlay have a separate contract that runs into the fall of 2008.
Cooper's fourth U.S. plant, located in Tupelo, Miss., is non-union.