Altoona, Pa. (August 1, 2003) – Two employees of Warnaco Inc. filed charges asking that officials of the nation’s largest textile union be stripped of their exclusive representation power over Warnaco’s Altoona- based employees, as the union’s recognition was based on a “false and tainted” process. Meanwhile, 60 percent of the Warnaco employees have signed a petition declaring that they never signed union authorization cards.
With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, Donna Taneyhill and Helen Holdsworth, two non-union employees, filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE) and its Mid-Atlantic Regional Joint Board.
Last month, UNITE officials claimed that – pursuant to the implementation of a so-called “neutrality agreement” and a “card check” authorization process – a majority of Warnaco employees had indicated they supported unionization. Based on this claim that was not verified by any company or government official, company officials nevertheless recognized the union as the exclusive representative. This action granted union officials a monopoly on bargaining over wages and working conditions that bind all Warnaco employees, and granted power to help impose compulsory union dues on the unwilling workers.
Responding to UNITE’s claims, 60 percent of workers in the plant have signed a petition declaring they never signed the union authorization cards. Without a majority of workers signing the authorization cards, UNITE officials have no right to act as the workers’ exclusive representative. Meanwhile, other employees have come forward alleging UNITE organizers harassed employees and coerced them to sign union authorization cards. The employees ask that the NLRB prohibit the union from bargaining on their behalf.
In addition to filing unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, Taneyhill and Holdsworth also submitted a petition to the NLRB seeking a decertification election. If the decertification election is successful, UNITE will likewise lose its power to act as the “exclusive bargaining representative” of the employees, and all Warnaco employees will be free to negotiate their own terms and conditions of employment.
“Union organizers exploit the highly abusive card check process to impose a union on employees without their consent,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Recently, Warnaco and UNITE officials signed a so-called “neutrality agreement,” denying workers the ability to reject unionization through a secret ballot election and allowing the union to sign up workers under a “card check” authorization scheme. In recent years, as union organizers have had less success in persuading employees to vote for unionization during secret ballot elections, unions have focused on eliciting employer support in corralling workers into union collectives.