ALBANY, Ga. (June 10, 2005) — Hourly employees at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Albany tire plant have voted down a unionization attempt by the United Steelworkers (USW).
The vote was 755 against the union and 465 for, with seven challenges, according to USW Organizer Lugertha Sharpley, who led the campaign in Albany. Workers voted in sessions June 7-8 at the Cooper facility.
“The company ran a good campaign,” she said. “A lot of the people think they're going to lose wages or the plant's going to close if there's a union. They aren't educated enough about unions yet to know unions don't close plants.”
In a statement, Cooper said it is pleased with the results of the vote. “We believe a direct relationship is always better than third party interference. As we said before the vote, Cooper doesn't believe a union is in the best interests of our company, our plant, our employees or the Albany community.
“Cooper has a great relationship with Albany employees and we expect that to grow stronger as we go forward making the best tires we can for our customers.”
Education on unions, how they work and the benefits they provide will be the focus on the next campaign, Ms. Sharpley said. Organizers must wait one year to hold another election for the Albany workers, but the USW can start a new campaign whenever it wants, she said.
The union disputes some of Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper's tactics during the campaign. The company hired a number of workers in recent months who were ineligible to vote and lengthened the probation period from 90 days to a year to ensure they'd be around for the election, Ms. Sharpley claimed.
However, as of now the USW won't pursue National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charges in those areas, she said, because the workers probably will get a chance to vote again before any NLRB decisions would be made. Ms. Sharpley said she learned a few lessons from the campaign—the largest she's worked on—and plans to move on to the next one.
“We'll try to keep in touch with the people, talk with them, and be ready for the next election,” she said.
The USW—then the United Steelworkers of America—previously made an attempt to run a campaign in 2002. This time, a group of workers called the union back in October and the campaign started in February.
The areas in which the union was trying to help the workers make improvements include wages, safety and working conditions, sick leave, insurance premiums and retirement, Ms. Sharpley said.
The Albany factory previously was organized under the United Rubber Workers when the site was owned by the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.