ASHEBORO, N.C.-For the second time in 15 months, the majority of workers at Goodyear´s Asheboro tire cord plant have chosen the United Steelworkers as their bargaining representative.
The workers on June 14-15 voted 173-147 by secret ballot in favor of USW representation, the union said. The Winston-Salem office of the National Labor Relations Board conducted the election and is expected to announce the results by the end of the month.
In March 2004, the workers in Asheboro participated in a card check election validating the USW as the employees´ representative. That was the first successful organization. However, in July, a small group of employees-with the legal aid of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation-filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against Goodyear and the union for "jointly coercing a majority of the plant´s workers to accept an unwanted union."
In August, the group of Goodyear employees also filed a petition with the NLRB for a decertification election in Asheboro. After discussions with the workers, the USW in January announced an agreement with the NLRB to suspend its representation with the hourly employees.
Brad Smoyer, a USW organizing representative involved with the Asheboro campaign, said at the time the setback was a "bump in the road," and that a secret-ballot vote would confirm that the majority of the workers wanted the Steelworkers´ representation.
Per stipulations with the NLRB, the USW ceased organizing activities at the Asheboro plant for 60 days before the election, Smoyer said. He wasn´t surprised by the results of the second vote.
"Everyone supporting us did a good job of keeping to the plan, which was to keep people informed through meetings and not engage the (NRTW) ´right-to-workers´ through any confrontations," he said. "We wanted to have the final say in the election and be victorious. It worked."
NRTW Vice President Stefan Gleason said the organization only gets involved in unionization disputes when it is contacted by employees having problems with the ways campaigns are being conducted. That was no different here, he said.
"Current laws allow for secret ballots and protect the workers from threats or coercion regarding their decisions," Gleason said. "Unless we are called back because the people there feel their rights were violated, it likely is the end of the issue in Asheboro. But we´ll keep our ears open."
Workers have 30 days to address concerns following the NLRB´s confirmation of the voting results, he said.
Goodyear declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the voting. "We will be moving forward with the business of making wire for our customers," said Asheboro Plant Manager Kimberly Williams.
After the NLRB verification, the USW will work to build membership as it prepares to enter negotiations for its first contract. The union´s September 2003 master contract with Goodyear contained a neutrality agreement guaranteeing a first contract without risk of a work stoppage and a 90-day bargaining period.
The Steelworkers organized two other Goodyear non-tire facilities in 2004-the company´s Statesville, N.C., tire mold plant and its Utica, N.Y., textile factory. The majority of about 130 Statesville workers ratified a three-year contract in November.