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Latest News - May 2011

May 16, 2011
New workers at Columbus' Omnova plant request to decertify union
Source: The Dispatch: Columbus, Starkville & The Golden Triangle
By: Garthia Elena Burnett

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the Omnova strike in Columbus, and the longest strike in the company's history does not bode to end favorably for its longtime union workers.

Last week, A a group of replacement workers at Omnova Solutions Inc. Thursday filed a request with the National Labor Relations Board to take a decertification vote.

By secret ballot, the more than 100 workers, formerly identified as "temporary," could vote 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.

And Omnova is moving forward, despite the lingering union members still manning the gates 24 hours a day.

"All strikers were permanently replaced months ago," said Sandi Noah, spokeswoman for Omnova.

The petition for decertification could take four to six weeks to be granted and go to a vote, if approved by the NLRB.

At least 30 percent of employees at the local plant must have signed the petition, and about one-third of petitions are withdrawn or dismissed, according to the NLRB website.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

Despite recent developments, 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.<P

It's a sad turn of events, he added, for workers who dedicated their lives to Omnova.

"We feel like many of these problems could have been worked out," he said.

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

"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."

For union members, it was never a true negotiation.

"The company would not negotiate. They keep saying, the final offer, the final offer, but we voted down the final offer. Now, they're seeking decertification," Lawrence said.

The union asked, about a month ago and to no avail, to return to the negotiation table.

"The whole thing is sad in itself," Lawrence said.

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

 

 


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