MACON, Ga. — An effort to unionize workers at a Kumho Tire USA Inc. plant is proving that, literally, every vote counts.
The United Steelworkers (USW) union claimed victory Aug. 11 after contested ballots from a September 2019 election to consider organization were finally counted.
The updated election results narrowed what had been very close support for the union into a razor-thin margin still in favor of representation.
Heading into the consideration of 13 contested ballots, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, the vote total was 141-137, a margin of less than 2 percent.
A pair of the contested ballots ultimately were deemed ineligible by the NLRB, resulting in 11 being opened and tallied Aug. 11, according to Keith Lolley, human resources director at the plant.
With four of those now-opened ballots cast for the union and seven opposing the idea, the updated vote total is 145-144 in favor of USW representation. A total of 311 Kumho workers were eligible to vote in the election last fall, the company said.
Even with the latest results, the process is not final as both sides filed objections prior to the opening of the challenged ballots. The NLRB now will consider those objections but has not yet set a date for that review, Lolley said.
Kumho, while explaining the process and providing election details, declined to comment on the outcome. Instead, the company said it would wait until the matter is resolved before making any statements.
"Kumho must begin acting like a responsible employer," USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo said. "The USW calls on the company to come to the negotiating table in good faith and quickly bargain the fair contract its workers long ago earned."
The Macon tire plant has been open since 2016. The first union vote took place not long after. That 2017 election saw the defeat of union representation, but an administrative law judge later found company misconduct. This led to last year's new election.
Word of the new election results comes less than a month after the USW leveled charges the plant was not providing adequate protection against COVID-19 for its workers.
The company pushed back those claims and alleged the USW has not done its part to encourage the workers to wear masks.
These types of ancillary disputes are not uncommon when companies and unions battle it out during organizational efforts.