MACON, Ga.—Federal labor regulators have sided with union officials who alleged unfair labor practices against Kumho Tire USA Inc. during a 2017 union election at the company's Georgia tire manufacturing plant.
The ruling by the National Labor Relations Board upheld findings previously made by an administrative law judge that Kumho made several unlawful moves in an attempt to blunt the entry of the United Steelworkers into the Macon facility during the union's first organization attempt at the tire plant..
The USW and Kumho have been in a years-long tussle regarding whether a little more than 300 employees of the plant should be unionized.
An Oct. 8, a 21-page ruling by the NLRB indicated company officials repeatedly made statements to employees that were unlawful while trying to convince employees not to join the union.
In one such instance, the NLRB said company President Hyunho Kim improperly made statements that "drew a straight line from the employees' selection of the union as their collective-bargaining representative to the company's demise.
"Kim clearly implied that the company would go out of business as a consequence of unionization," the NLRB said in its ruling. "Kim, however, failed to cite any objective facts that would tend to show that the respondent would have to go out of business for reasons beyond its control if employees selected the union."
The NLRB also ruled that company Chief People Officer Jerome Miller made certain statements "during a mandatory employee meeting held a day before the election constituted unlawful threats of a loss of benefits, transfer of work and plant closure."
The company was ordered to stop "threatening employees with plant shutdown, job loss, loss of benefits, transfer of work to other locations and stricter rule enforcement if they select union representation."
Kumho also was ordered by the NLRB to stop "threatening employees with reprisals, specified and unspecified, for their support of the union," and "suggesting that it will respond to employee grievances and complaints if employees reject union representation."
In addition, the NLRB said the company must stop:
- "interrogating employees regarding their union sympathies";
- "suggesting union representation would be futile";
- "threatening changed work conditions, such as less help from supervisors;
- "giving the impression that it has placed employees' union activities under surveillance";
- "telling employees not to speak to other employees in support of the union"; and
- "interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them."
The company also is required to post copies of a notice in the plant indicating the NLRB found Kumho violated federal labor law.
The notice must be posted for 60 consecutive days "in conspicuous places including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted." The company also is required to distribute the notice electronically.
USW leaders, out of the union's base in Pittsburgh, said the company must call a plant-wide meeting to read a detailed statement, prepared by the NLRB, acknowledging the company's conduct.
"Once again, the federal government has publicly censured Kumho for its egregious and oppressive conduct," USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo said in a statement. "It's time for the company to face facts. Its workers voted to unionize, and Kumho now must come to the table and commit to good-faith negotiations for the equitable contract these hard-working men and women long ago earned."
A representative for Kumho Tire Georgia could not be immediately reached for comment.
The NLRB upheld an original ruling made in May 2019 by Administrative Law Judge Arthur J. Amchan.
Following that ruling, a new election was ordered, taking place in September 2019. But it wasn't until Aug. 11 of this year that several contested votes were opened and the USW declared victorious by a vote of 145-144.
Even with those 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