Union, lumber firm back to bargaining

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 10, 2000

Debate continues between union and non-union supporters at Muth Lumber Co.

Monday, January 10, 2000

Debate continues between union and non-union supporters at Muth Lumber Co. as another contract negotiation session nears tonight.

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Members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners expect to meet with company negotiators to discuss the union’s recent contract proposal, even though they have made no headway since talks in December, union spokesperson Brian Patterson said.

Workers who do not support the union’s efforts allege that negotiations during the last year have created strife among lumber yard workers and lowered production, employee Mick Stevens said.

"The situation was fine before all this happened," Stevens said. "Muth Lumber is a small business and we won’t benefit from a union contract."

Any raises likely will not cover employee union dues and current health insurance is about as cheap as can be obtained by any small private company, he said.

And there is enough employee support to stop unionization by filing a decertification petition with the National Labor Relations Board, Stevens said.

Patterson said workers voted 24-19 last January to unionize because Muth needs to address grievance procedures, seniority rights, wages that accurately reflect work accomplished and insurance with better coverage and lower family costs.

"The last proposal we gave contained a lot of the company’s own language but we proposed a different insurance plan, one the union uses, the Ohio Carpenters’ Health and Welfare Fund," Patterson said.

"We haven’t gotten anywhere, but they were willing to come back to the bargaining table and were not ordered to," he said.

The company withdrew its contract proposal in July.

There have been no concessions about wages or benefits during talks, Patterson said.

Some issues about the unionization are being heard in federal court and both sides are waiting on a federal judge’s decision.

The union has accused the company unfair labor practices and expects a court-ordered extension on the union certification period, Patterson said.

Non-union supporters will await that decision, too, but plan to file for decertification once the deadline for a contract comes due at the end of the month, Stevens said.

"We sent in a petition signed by 16 to 17 people but until there’s a decision, our hands are tied," he said.

Many employees feel the union is trying to make the company look bad and is not looking out for everyone’s best interest, Stevens said.

Stevens also has complained to the NLRB that non-union supporters are suffering verbal abuse and threats.

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