Workers at Iowa's leading manufacturer of wind turbine towers successfully took on company intimidation and two union-busting firms to express their right to join a union.
A group of more than 130 workers at Trinity Structural Towers voted to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 347 August 13.
Workers at the plant decided to go union after a series of high-profile accidents due to company neglect. “We had one employee lose his finger last month, an accident that shouldn’t have happened,” said IBEW Organizer Brian Heins.
The company also abused overtime procedures, forcing some employees to work 14-hour days without prior notification.
Iowa is the fourth-largest producer of wind power in the nation, with more than 1,000 wind turbines in use, so the announcement in 2008 that Trinity Structural Towers – a subsidiary of the Texas-based Trinity Industries, Inc. – was going to build a new wind turbines production facility in Newton was viewed as great news for Iowa workers.
But the failure of the company to develop good relationships with its workforce led employees to contact the IBEW.
“A union organizer is not called by satisfied employees,” Heins told the Newton Daily News.
Heins said the workers moved fast, gathering enough signatures to file for an election within a week of their first meeting with IBEW organizers in June.
Instead of discussing the issues brought up by their employees, however, Trinity’s management took the low road, bringing in two big union-busting firms. For nearly two months, workers were subjected to almost daily anti-union captive audience meetings, Heins said:
It was nonstop. They told them we were thugs, that we would take them out on strike. They used everything in the book.
The union-busters’ efforts were unsuccessful, but Trinity’s aggressive use of anti-union tactics drives home the need for real labor law reform, Heins said:
If the election was delayed by any longer, I’m not sure how the vote would have turned out. The company got the opportunity to spout anti-union propaganda all day, every day, while we couldn’t even get on company grounds. It’s an unfair playing field for workers.
Trinity is not alone. A May 2009 study of employer opposition to union organizing done by Cornell University researcher Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner finds that more than 70 percent of employers hold one-on-one closed door meetings with employees during a unionization drive, while 75 percent of employers bring in outside anti-union consultants.
Despite management’s anti-union attitude, Local 347 Business Manager Kevin Clark says that the IBEW is ready to work together to make the company successful.
This isn’t an anti-company action. We told management that they have a great workforce and we want to make the company work better for everyone.
To see more reasons why we need labor law reform, check out this video produced by the IBEW.