MACON, Ga.—An administrative law judge ordered a new union vote at Kumho Tire's manufacturing site in Macon after finding that company officials violated workers' rights during the first election in October 2017.
The first vote resulted in a 164-136 loss for workers, who were seeking to join the United Steelworkers union. This prompted the USW to file complaints with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the company of illegal conduct in its effort to suppress the union.
The USW said in a news release that Judge Arthur J. Amchan ruled Kumho's illegal conduct was "pervasive" and that it warranted not only a new election, but the "extraordinary" remedy of requiring company officials to read a notice to all of its employees outlining the specific ways in which they violated the workers' rights.
Kumho's violations, Amchan said, included illegally interrogating employees, threatening to fire union supporters, threatening plant closure, and creating an impression of surveillance, among other threats to workers.
"This ruling is a major victory, not just for the brave Kumho Tire workers and not just for union members, but for all workers who want to improve their lives through organizing," Daniel Flippo—director of the USW's District 9, which includes Georgia and six other southern states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands—said in a statement. "The USW is committed to fighting for all workers' rights."
The union said in 2017 that Kumho had fired union supporter Mario Smith and threatened other workers at Macon with dismissal.
Leo W. Gerard, United Steelworkers union international president, went so far as to write South Korea President Moon Jae-in during the days leading up to the 2017 vote raising concerns about Kumho Tire's actions toward its workers at the plant. The USW asked South Korea to intervene and ensure that the workers at Kumho's new plant in Macon be allowed to exercise their democratic rights in voting to unionize, claiming that because of Kumho Tire is currently under control of a creditors' committee led by the Korean Development Bank, the South Korean government could be held directly responsible for the behavior of the company's management.
Gerard wrote that Kumho Tire management has responded to the election petition in a hostile manner by requiring workers to attend captive audience meetings where managers have attempted to dissuade them from their effort to form a union.
Kumho officials could not immediately be reached for comment.