The National Labor Relations Board’s Cincinnati office is starting the process of looking at whether to schedule a vote for about 1,500 Fuyao Glass America workers on whether to join the United Auto Workers (UAW).
The union isn’t saying how many signatures of Fuyao workers petitioning for a union representation election have been sent to the NLRB.
Matthew Denholm, assistant director for the NLRB Cincinnati office, said Tuesday morning no election is scheduled yet.
But he said “union cards” from the UAW have been received, and the NLRB now must review them to make sure they’re “current” and that cards are signed.
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A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 25 at the NLRB Cincinnati office, at the 550 Main St. federal building.
But if the union and the company reach agreement on crucial details, that hearing may be cancelled, Denholm cautioned..
Denholm said that before hearings, unions and companies sometimes reach “a stipulated election agreement.” He did not know if that will happen in the case of Fuyao. But he said the sides will try to come to an agreement on the time and place of an election and who exactly will be represented in a new bargaining unit, among other details.
Denholm added that the NLRB assumes that the signatures it has received from the UAW are from workers at the plant. But he said that if Fuyao leaders want the office to check them, the company can make a payroll list available.
UAW leaders said Tuesday they are confident an NLRB-sanctioned election will happen.
“We have workers in that plant who truly need our help,” said Rich Rankin, director of the UAW region that includes the plant in Moraine.
Fuyao leaders, however, say they want to maintain a direct relationship with workers.
“Fuyao believes that maintaining this direct relationship is in the best interest of our associates, customers, business partners, the state of Ohio, and the Dayton community in which we operate,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.
About 1,500 hourly workers are at the Fuyao auto glass plant in Moraine. And “they’re not being paid a living wage right now,” Rankin said in a phone call from Detroit Tuesday.
No one in a UAW conference call would discuss how many worker signatures have been submitted to the NLRB. Federal law requires a 30-percent threshold — signatures from 30 percent of a workplace’s eligible workforce — to schedule a representation election, and Rankin said “it’s safe to assume” the UAW’s number of signatures exceeds that.
“It is our policy not to discuss the total number of signatures as they come in,” said UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg. “But this committee feels strong enough that they filed.”
Theodore Searcy, a Fuyao worker for about 18 months, said workers at the plant off Stroop Road are “really looking forward to a time to vote.”
“This has been going on for too long,” he said.
He said employees who have to take time off from work to care for sick children or family emergencies are punished.
“They’re firing too many good workers with no excuse,” Searcy said. “Their point system is terrible, especially if anybody has any kids. It seems like Fuyao has not set us up to win, but more or less set us up to fail.”
“In the workplace, that should never be an issue,” he added. “Family should be first.”
In response, Fuyao’s general counsel said he’s not aware of any employer who doesn’t require regular prompt attendance at work.
“I’ll stack our attendance policy against any manufacturer in town,” said Fuyao’s Micah Siegel. “It’s strict perhaps, (but) I think it’s administered fairly.”
“This is a plant that … has come to Ohio with great public investment,” Rothenberg said. “There has been a lot said how about the workers have been adjusting. There has been a lot of turnover at the plant. There have been a lot of safety issues at the plant.”
He faulted “constantly changing roles and policies at the plant,” among other problems.
The company says its approach is only starting to bear fruit.
“We became profitable only months ago,” said Tim Reynolds, Fuyao’s vice president, OEM operations. “This achievement has not been because of a third party like the UAW. It has been the result of teamwork — our folks coming together, learning how to design, make, and ship good glass and driving improvements in safety and efficiency.”