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Columbus Workers To Vote On Union Busting

Tue, 05/17/2011 - 7:24am

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — A vote could soon be taken to decertify the union at Omnova Solutions, Inc., in Columbus, where some workers have been on strike for a year.

The Columbus Dispatch reports a group of replacement workers have filed a request with the National Labor Relations Board to take a decertification vote. The more than 100 workers could vote by secret ballot to make the local plant non-union, officially detaching it from the 168 workers who've been on strike since May 21, 2010. The union's contract expired on May 15, 2010.

Workers on strike have been permanently replaced, said Sandi Noah, a spokeswoman for Omnova, a maker of upholstery products.

The petition for decertification could take four to six weeks to be granted and go to a vote, if approved by the NLRB. The board confirmed Tuesday the petition had been filed.

At least 30 percent of employees at the local plant must have signed the petition, and about one-third of petitions are withdrawn or dismissed, according to the NLRB website.

Ballots can be taken at the workplace or by mail, and when they are counted, company officials, union membership and replacement workers can be present. A majority vote decides whether the union will be decertified.

Union members remain steadfast, said to Jay Lawrence, president of the union, Local 748-L.

"Our membership is still of a sound mind, that we're on strike," Lawrence said. "We feel like many of these problems could have been worked out."

The contract presented stripped away seniority rights, including shift and vacation preference, slashed benefits and eliminated an incentives-based program in place for decades, said Lawrence.

"It's just the way we (were) attacked by the company. Our seniority rights, shift rights, pensions, benefits," Lawrence said. "This contract negotiation was just unacceptable to the membership."

The union had asked to return to the negotiating table about a month ago, but that never happened, he said.

Omnova remains focused on meeting the needs of its customers, "with an engaged, local Columbus workforce," Noah said.

The NLRB confirmed it received the petition for decertification, but it could take weeks to be granted.

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