Solvay Workers Vote to Join USW

Production employees at Solvay’s Tulsa, Okla., plant voted overwhelmingly on August 8 to join the USW. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified the election on Aug. 18.

The USW will represent 79 workers at a plant that makes high performance composite materials that are used in high performance sports applications (like yachts and motorsport) and defense and ballistic applications in helmets, vests and vehicles.

USW District 13 organizer Dionisio Gonzalez said the organizing campaign took about 40 days, and he attributed the win to a “great in-plant committee.”

Two major issues prompted workers to seek union representation:  Harsh discipline through a point system and favoritism. Gonzalez said he constantly attacked the point system during the campaign.

Communication and education were essential since the group didn’t have a lot of union experience, said Gonzalez. He was able to provide information about topics, like their right to organize, through handbills.

Another important part of the success was Solvay’s Global Framework Agreement (GFA), which commits the company to respecting the rights of its employees to organize and join a union. Gonzalez said that the company’s corporate labor relations manager for North America came to the plant during the campaign, adhered to the agreement and was neutral about the vote.

 

The company and IndustriALL, a global labor federation that counts the USW as a member, signed the GFA in February 2017. In the agreement, Solvay committed to following internationally recognized labor, human rights and environmental standards at all of its sites.

High Enthusiasm

The next step is to form a negotiating committee and bargain a first contract.

Gonzalez said that not only is there a great deal of enthusiasm about joining the USW, there’s a lot of interest in participating on the negotiating committee. The group also has a clear idea of what they hope to achieve in bargaining. They highlighted and notated copies of other USW Solvay contracts that Gonzalez provided them.

Educating newly-organized workers about their rights is essential, he said.

“Members need to be educated on how to enforce a contract. If you have 50-60 percent well-trained members, you can have a strong union. This Solvay group is ready for the long term.”

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