In McMinnville, a recycled rubber factory goes union

United SteelworkersA group of 61 workers at a rubber recycling factory in McMinnville has voted to join the United Steelworkers (USW).

Ultimate RB, formerly RB Rubber, is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Accella Performance Materials. The company’s McMinnville plant turns recycled rubber into a variety of products, such as high-density rubber mats used in truck beds and horse stalls, rubber flooring for athletic facilities and playgrounds, and ballistic tiles used in shooting ranges.

Hourly wages there are low by union standards, says USW staff representative Jim Kilborn — around $12.50 for production workers, and about $22 for journeyman machine maintenance workers. The company provides medical, vision and dental benefits, and offers a 401(k). Workers would like better wages and benefits, Kilborn said, but a bigger factor in the decision to unionize was just having a voice in workplace — to be able to impact decisions that affect them, like whether they have to work on Saturdays, or a fair process for determining who works overtime.

The campaign began with a phone call to the union by one of the workers. Soon a committee formed, and they gathered signed union authorization cards. On April 24, the union asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election, and one was scheduled for May 19. Kilborn says that appeared to take the company by surprise. It mounted a conventional anti-union campaign with workplace anti-union meetings led by managers. But Kilborn said by then workers had already been inoculated against anti-union talking points: “The committee knew exactly what the employer was going to tell them.”

The vote was 34 to 23 for the union. The bargaining unit will consist of production, maintenance, and shipping and receiving employees, but 30 to 40 temp workers who work there won’t be in the union. Kilborn said members should be ready to begin contract negotiations in July, after selecting a committee of three workers who will be assisted by USW staff members.

USW is no stranger to the rubber industry. Locally USW represents Griffith Rubber Mills, a Portland fabricator of gaskets and seals used in Daimler trucks. In fact, owing to mergers with other unions, rubber is part of USW’s seldom-spelled-out full name, the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.