MACON, Ga.—Workers at Kumho Tire U.S.A.'s Macon plant narrowly approved certification of the United Steelworkers union in an early September vote.
However, the 141-137 outcome of the union vote could be changed by the disposition of 13 challenged ballots.
The USW, which disputed the results of a 2017 union election at the Macon plant before the National Labor Relations Board, said a hearing on the challenged ballots should take place by mid-October.
Otherwise, the USW celebrated the election results in a Sept. 7 news release.
"Kumho spent thousands upon thousands of dollars and used every trick in the book to fight its own workers, including suspending a union activist who was eight months pregnant," Daniel Flippo, USW District 9 director, said in the release.
"We look forward to resolving these challenges as quickly as possible so that these workers can finally have the chance to sit down with the company and bargain a fair contract," Flippo said.
Kumho did not respond to requests for comment.
The original union vote at Macon, held Oct. 12-13, 2017, resulted in a 164-136 result against the union.
On Oct. 17, 2017, the USW filed a complaint against Kumho, claiming the company interfered with the election and engaged in unfair labor practices.
Among other things, the union said Kumho:
- Did not address employee concerns about safety, discrimination, retaliation, favoritism and harassment.
- Posted a series of videos on its "union facts" website encouraging employees to vote against the union.
- Hired a consulting firm, Labor Relations Institute Inc., to hold captive audience meetings with employees every shift as well as one-on-one meetings with employees.
- Fired Mario Smith, one of the main advocates at the Macon plant for unionizing.
National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge Arthur J. Amchan found in the union's favor on May 14, 2019.
In his decision, Amchan considered the testimony of 18 workers at Macon, who said Kumho executives—including company President Hyunho Kim—told workers that their jobs would be in jeopardy if the USW won the election.
"Respondent (Kumho) would have me believe that 18 witnesses, including 11 current employees of Kumho, fabricated their testimony," Amchan wrote. "This is extremely unlikely. … Where there is reason to be skeptical of this testimony, I will say so."
Also, when Kumho sent the USW a list of eligible voters at Macon, virtually all the mailing addresses and at least some of the telephone numbers were incorrect, according to Amchan.
Amchan found that Kumho violated NLRB rules against hostile interrogation of employees. "The violative statements were numerous, severe (i.e. threats of plant closure), disseminated widely and were made up to the evening prior to balloting," he wrote.
Amchan set aside the October 2017 election and remanded it to the NLRB regional director for the purpose of conducting a second election. He ordered Kumho to cease and desist all anti-union activities, and to read the order prohibiting those activities to a mandatory assembly of workers at Macon.