By COLIN STAUB
Nearly five years after a group of welders at PCC Structurals voted to join the Machinists union, an anti-union legal group is helping with a decertification campaign. That comes after the company fought the union every step of the way, tied up the union representation vote in court, and failed to bargain in good faith on a first contract.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed the decertification petition on May 27, looking to withdraw about 60 PCC Structurals welders from Machinists District Lodge W24.
PCC Structurals is an investment casting division of Precision Castparts. Its Milwaukie, Oregon, site is one of 11 PCC campuses worldwide. In September 2017, welders at the facility voted 54 to 38 to join the Machinists. But management refused to negotiate a contract or even recognize the union, and the company battled it out in court for three and a half years, arguing that it was inappropriate for the welders to have their own bargaining unit, separate from a larger unit that has voted several times to stay nonunion.
After the company lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. in March 2021, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) moved forward on enforcing unfair labor practice charges that the union filed against PCC over its refusal to bargain. The NLRB ordered PCC to bargain with the union and to stop interfering with workers’ union rights.
But that wasn’t the end.
The Machinists have filed three more unfair labor practice charges since then, most recently in April 2022, alleging that it made unilateral changes to working conditions without union agreement. Will Lukens, a business representative for the Machinists who’s been at the bargaining table with PCC, said the company gave 3% out-of-cycle wage increases to nonunion employees. They also got 3% shift differential increases, cheaper insurance costs and an increase to the company 401(k) match.
Union employees got nothing, and the company’s actions sent a clear message.
“That’s had an impact on folks sticking with it and feeling like they’re being punished for being union,” Lukens said.
Meanwhile, bargaining has moved slowly over the past year. The two sides have reached tentative agreements on 16 or 17 items, Lukens said, but haven’t gotten to key issues like economics and grievance language.
On June 1, management told union representatives that more than 50% of workers in the bargaining unit signed a petition to decertify, and asked the union to “disclaim” the unit, voluntarily quit representing it. Given that multiple NLRB charges are still pending against PCC, the Machinists declined. So, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union Virginia-based group, filed for a decertification election on behalf of an employee who opposes the union.
Details of the election had not been finalized by press time, but Lukens expects it will take place in late June or early July.
When the welders unionized, there were about 100 workers in the bargaining unit, but after a series of layoffs over the past few years, 64 employees remain.
Lukens says the latest development doesn’t come as a shock.
“They fought us through the NLRB, and then it went to court and they fought us tooth and nail, so this wasn’t a surprise,” he said.