Gainesville chemical plant workers to vote on union
Jenny Brown
November/December 2000

Workers at Clariant LSM, the Gainesville plant formerly known as PCR, are trying to win union representation and the protection of a union contract.

Seventy-five percent of the employees at the plant have signed a petition for union representation by PACE--the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union. There will be a vote on December 6th.

Clariant worker Dave Hennig gave some of the reasons the workers want to go union. "In the absence of a contract, employers can pretty well do with you as they please. Job descriptions are meaningless. There are no objective standards for annual evaluations. Raises are not related to company performance but to 'local market standards,' and then, more or less, paid out according to unchallengable evaluations."

He also cited a phony grievance procedure, which "permits management to pretend to be benevolant when it suits them." Hennig noted that this was put in place after an earlier union drive

"Collective action is essentially the only way a working person can exercise any political clout." Hennig commented. "If you have the right to get together and negotiate terms [with your employer], why wouldn't you?"

In response to the union drive, Clariant LSM management is requiring employees to go to anti-union meetings, there are daily postings of anti-union propaganda on official bulletin boards.

The supervisors are being pressured by upper management to put pressure on the employees under them. Said Hennig, "The line-level supervisors have to endure daily sessions and they are expected to report area assements of union sympathies and participate in strategies to combat it."

In addition to this pressure, management has sent at least 4 letters to the homes of its employees, each more threatening than the next, predicting that the union will fine and discipline its members and that they only want the dues of the employees. Finally they imply they will stall on negotiating a contract anyway, and give the example of a plant in South Carolina where the employees formed a union and have been trying to extract a first contract from Clariant for 6 months. This is contradictory. If unions only want dues, why are they holding out for a good contract in South Carolina? You don't pay dues until you get your first contract.

Management's letters also use the time-worn union-buster idea that the union is an outside entity to try to manipulate the employees into voting against the union. The letters carefully leave out the fact that unions are self-governing, democratic organizations. Not only do the employees vote on the union, they also vote on whether to accept or reject contract offers, who their officers will be, and also on whether to strike.

The Central Labor Council of North Central Florida is calling for other unionists and friends to show support for the union drive by gathering at the front gate of the plant to leaflet and hold signs in support on Thursday, November 30, starting at 1:30 p.m. and ending at 3:00 p.m.

The Clariant LSM plant is just north of the Job Corps building off Waldo Road, north of the airport.

For more information, call the North Central Florida Central Labor Council at 372-6888.

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