The Sept. 22 union election was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The vote was 54 to 38 in favor of joining the union. The federal agency certified the result Oct. 2.
But Precision Castparts Corp., is refusing to recognize the results of the election, bargain with Machinists District Lodge W24, or respect employees’ most basic union rights, like the federally-recognized “Weingarten” right to have a steward or fellow worker present when a worker goes in front of a manager in a disciplinary meeting. Instead, the company is hoping a new Trump-appointed NLRB majority will vindicate its lawlessness.
Precision Castparts, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is a maker of cast parts for aerospace, medical, nuclear and other industries. It’s fought hard to remain nonunion in the Portland area, and defeated multiple union campaigns in the past.
This time, the union sought an election for just one unit — re-work welders.
Precision Castparts argues that the NLRB was wrong to say welders could stand on their own as a bargaining unit. It’s an argument that went all the way to the NLRB’s five-member national board, where it was rejected in September. Now Precision is asking the Board to review its decision, knowing that the Board has changed composition and now has an anti-union majority.
“Their stance is they won’t meet with us until they hear back from the NLRB,” says Machinists Grand Lodge Representative Bill Anderson.
Meanwhile, Anderson says the company is also bringing in a dozen or more subcontracted welders. Anderson says employees are reporting that PCC has been sending its own employees home for lack of work while subcontractors toil seven days a week with overtime.
The Machinists union has filed six separate complaints with the NLRB, alleging multiple violations of federal labor law since the union election took place. The violations include the denial of Weingarten rights, making unilateral changes to working conditions without bargaining with the union, and refusing to recognize the union, furnish requested information, or bargain in good faith.
The union held an informational picket Nov. 14 to let the public know what is happening at the facility.
“We’re following everything by the letter of the law,” Anderson told the Labor Press. “These guys took a vote. They want to be represented by the Machinists union.”
Amid the stonewalling from Precision, prounion welders did get one morale boost: A letter from U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley congratulating them on voting in the union: “The ability to bargain for safe working conditions and fair pay and benefits is a fundamental right in our society,” Merkley wrote. “Thank you for the work you do to keep America moving, and best of luck as you bargain your first contract.”
The company may not “recognize” the Machinists, but the union is keen on defending members anyway. One example: Urging employees to get screened for exposure to hexavalent chromium, a heavy metal that can cause cancer in the digestive tract and lungs, which has been an ongoing problem at Precision.