Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 17, 2003

ABC Truss carpenters vote 'no' to union

By Julie Yurek

Carpenters voted a resounding "no" to the question of union representation at ABC Truss in Montrose Thursday.

A total of 83 votes were cast, with 62 against, 17 in favor, and four being contested, concerning the Lakes and Plains Regional council of Carpenters and Joiners Union, otherwise known as the carpenters' union, said union spokesman Ed Liljedahl.

ABC Truss relocated from Long Lake to Montrose a little over a year ago.

"We are very happy with the results of the election. We are grateful for our employees strong support, and believe that the result is a strong mandate for the continuance of the policies that have made our company such a fine place to work," company spokesman Jim Scheible said.

Both the union and the company had meetings with the employees in the weeks and days prior to the election.

Of the employees, 85 of them are full-time carpenter employees, 15 were temporary carpenter workers, and 12 are truck drivers, Liljedahl said.

ABC requested the truck drivers be allowed to vote because they spend time in the shop during down time, Liljedahl said.

The union felt the temporary workers had a vested interest, but that the truck drivers did not, Liljedahl said.

Besides being able to request additional voters, ABC was allowed to contest certain votes, Liljedahl said.

The company notified the union that it might contest votes of the 15 temp employees, Liljedahl said.

These temp employees were let go a few weeks ago, although they were still able to vote, Liljedahl said. The four contested votes were temp employees, he said.

Some of those 15 workers had been at ABC for years. One man worked there as a "temp" for seven years, Liljedahl said.

However, the temp workers were still able to vote because it was agreed upon which employees were voting a few weeks before the election, he said. It is one of many rules and regulations set up the National Labor Board, Liljedahl said.

Employees have expressed a variety of reasons why they are interested in the union, Liljedahl said. However, one reason is to regulate the company's pay and raise structure, he said.

"Employees told us they were not getting their pay raises on time, and that they weren't getting the right pay for doing certain jobs," Liljedahl said.

Also, "some of the temps were left as temps for too long, and when they were hired on full-time, they didn't get their raise like they were supposed to when they changed over to full-time," he said.

Employees told the union that the company was correcting some of the pay and raise issues once talk of a union started, Liljedahl said.

"We've been told that some feel those issues were corrected because the union 'showed up' and it will go back to the way it was before if the union goes away."

The union is just an advisor, Liljedahl said. An employee at the company contacted the union about six to seven months ago to look into getting the union back at ABC, he said.

"We met with employees outside of the company, usually at their homes, to talk," he said.

"The employees are looking for a legal and binding contract that the company would have to follow," he said. "They want to have a say in their future."

If the vote had been a yes, the union and ABC would have had one year to work out a contract for the employees. If no contract had been settled, it would have been back to square one, like the vote had never taken place, Liljedahl said. That situation is no longer a concern.

Liljedahl didn't think ABC would have been affected monetarily if the union had been approved, he said. "The union was not going to make demands of more money. The employees just wanted to keep what they have."

Some kind of dues would have been paid to the union, but the details would have been worked out in the contract, Liljedahl said. He gave an example of $15 per month for dues.

"The employees had a union at one time, the Teamsters, but approximately 10 years ago the employees elected to vote the union out," Liljedahl said.

"One guy told me it was easier to vote the union out 10 years ago, than it was to vote it back in now," Liljedahl said.

The carpenters' union has between 15,000 and 16,000 employees, he said.

Many of its employees are from the commercial industry, but it does have some in the house building sector, he said.

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