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Employees seek union dissolution

Muth Lumber Co.

Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Muth Lumber Co. employees seeking decertification of a recent union vote rallied this weekend, urging co-workers to follow no one.

"What we’re here to try to do is get a decertification election to get them out of there because we don’t want it," said Mick Stevens, who wore a T-shirt bearing the "Follow No One" slogan.

About 15 employees gathered at a friend’s home for a picnic supported solely by employee donations, Stevens said.

While there, workers signed a mock petition for the election, intending to post the real one once paperwork is completed with the National Labor Relations Board, he said.

Muth workers who voted 24-19 in January to unionize with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners have held informational pickets since spring, calling for a better contract, spokesperson Brian Patterson said.

Informational pickets are not an intention to strike, but are campaigns designed to show support for better wages and benefits, grievance procedures and a seniority clause in a contract, Patterson said.

To be officially recognized with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the local must negotiate a contract by January.

Stevens said Muth Lumber is a small, family-owned business whose workers will not benefit from a union contract.

Only a 25-cent-per-hour raise has been outlined in contract talks so far, and that will not cover union dues for most employees, Stevens said.

And, insurance is about as cheap as can be obtained by companies, he said.

"If the union is in there, there will be less dialogue with the owners, and it will break them up," Stevens said.

Stacker machine operator Paul Kidd said he is satisfied with his current pay, which is more than $8 an hour.

"If this was a big outfit, you know 500 or 600 people, yeah, vote one in," he said. "But, this is a family business."

Forklift driver and lumber grader Ed McFann said he does not support union efforts, either.

"People do deserve better pay, but the route they’re taking is not the right way," McFann said.

Maintenance worker Charlie Prosser said he wants to work for himself.

"Nobody is getting raises now because of the union negotiations and we usually get raises every year," Prosser said. "The way I see it, as long as there’s lumber going out the gate, I don’t care what job I do. I’ve got a paycheck coming in."

Union officials argue the company has not negotiated in good faith and has not offered proper compensation for jobs that are difficult and hazardous.

"You can’t negotiate when the union is sitting there calling you names, being angry and walking out," said Stevens, who has attended sessions.

The company issued its final offer about the first of July, and all parties are now waiting, he said.

Stevens said if the union vote were taken today, it would likely fail.

"A few have come over to our side, and several have gotten new jobs," he said.

Meanwhile, Stevens has complained to the NLRB that they are suffering verbal abuse and threats.

The union has denied such threats and has complained to the NLRB that the company is stalling contract talks.