New Xerox employees join UNITE

On April 20, culminating a swift and largely conflict-free organizing campaign, about 180 workers at a Xerox Corp. color copier facility in Wilsonville joined the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE). The union victory comes seven months after Xerox bought Tektronix's color copier division. Wilsonville is located off I-5, south of Portland.

The bargaining unit consists of distribution and warehouse, materials handling, assembly and operations workers. Xerox employs about 1,200 workers at the facility and UNITE has plans to organize about 500 more employees there.

UNITE has 250,000 members nationwide. At Xerox, the union represents about 6,500 workers at all of its locations.

Barbara Mejia, assistant manager of the Western Regional Joint Board in San Diego California, said UNITE has a cooperative relationship with Xerox and that the company doesn't fight attempts to unionize new acquisitions.

At the Wilsonville location, management recognized the union based on "card check," avoiding the need for a government-supervised election.

Of 174 workers, 130 signed union authorization cards, two-thirds of them within eight days of the beginning of the union drive.

To win that level of support for the union, four UNITE staff organizers spent two months explaining the wages and benefits Xerox union employees get at other locations, and at least nine union Xerox workers were brought in from California and New York to talk to Tektronix workers.

The union set up a Website where workers could log on and "meet" other Xerox workers at unionized facilities.

The Wilsonville workers had issues of their own to drive them to organize. Hundreds of jobs at the facility have been lost as operations have been shifted to Penang, Malaysia. And a sizable portion of the workforce, 100 employees, are classified as "temps," even though they may stay with the company for up to two or three years.

At the contract negotiations expected to begin in June, in addition to winning the standard Xerox contract, the union plans to bargain a way for the temporary workers to be offered permanent positions, Mejia said.

May 5, 2000 issue

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