Article Comment 

Omnova moves on with replacement workers


Garthia Elena Burnett



The Omnova strike, which has dragged on for the better part of a year, could end with the strikers walking away from the company many of them have worked for their entire adult lives. 


As May 15 approaches, decertification of the Local 748-L becomes more of a concern, and resuming negotiations seems hopeless. 


"I''m not sure what we would discuss," Omnova Solutions spokeswoman Sandi Noah said, when asked if there were any pans to return to the negotiation table. 


The company, she said, has offered creative solutions to keep the plant competitive. Not only have workers rejected the proposals, they also have offered no proposals of their own, she said. 


Meanwhile, about 15 of the initial 168 workers who voted to start the strike have retired, though they still walk the picket line, in support of their former coworkers. 


On May 15, one year after the 168-2 vote to reject the contract, the company could take a decertification vote from the more than 100 workers hired to replace the strikers, said Jay Lawrence, union president. 


"Certainly, that''s one of our concerns. They could try to take a decertification vote or whatever," Lawrence said. "We have to be prepared for whatever takes place." 


It all comes back to one question, he said: Does the company need experienced workers to continue to put out a quality product? 


For union workers, the answer is an obvious yes, though the company says it is delivering orders as normal, and the replacement workers are glad to have a job. 


"The plant has been operating and serving customers with an engaged local workforce, so our plan is to stay (operational) so that we can continue to serve our customers," said Noah. 


Whether the company hires more local workers "will depend on business conditions," she said. 


"The company has done what it has needed to do in order to keep serving companies with quality products and services," Noah continued. "That has been and will continue to be our focus." 


Noah also notes the company is "having a positive impact on the families of new workers and suppliers and vendors throughout the Columbus area." 


Last week, six local union members traveled to Ohio for a shareholders'' meeting. The meeting, Lawrence said, lasted 16 minutes, and it was never opened for discussion or questions from the floor. 


"I believe that''s because we were there, and they knew we wanted to ask questions, such as, ''Is it beneficial to the company that we, the experienced employees, are not working?''" Lawrence said. 


The Columbus plant is Omnova''s primary facility for decorative products, such as commercial wall coverings and coated fabrics for bus and boat seats.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment [email protected] commented at 3/25/2011 10:53:00 AM:

They should replace all the union workers with new workers..As many people that are without a job, Union workers can be replaced. No one is nonreplaceable even though they may think they are.. Good for Omnova..Unions are worthless anyway!!!


Article Comment citizenkane commented at 3/25/2011 9:29:00 PM:

jdgill, you need to read some history on Unions, find out why they were established. Unions came about by ruthless robber barons treating fellow human beings like simple garbage or you can call them CEOs in todays language. The middle class is being attacked at a very fast rate today; money is being manipulated from every angle, goods prices are being manipulated, etc. The powerful, wealthy few are getting as ruthless as the barons of old. Look around, the signs are sticking in your face. You may not care for unions now, but the need for Unions is fast approaching once again.
Miss Noah is a communication officer, what she says is as worthless as what a bought off newspaper says. The company, I would guess, own the newspaper and the city government, this allows this business to get away with anything under the sun in this community. Period.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 3/26/2011 7:12:00 AM:

What you are seeing here is typical of what the American workplace has become today, especially in this state. This state has one of the worst records of employee abuse of any other states. Employees in this state are cheated out of wages, forced into dangerous situations due to an employer who is cutting corners or too cheap to purchase/rent equipment that would make the job safer, and when you do get injured here on the job they try to mess you over there too.

Are you aware that in Mississippi when you accept Workman Comp from your employer you lose the right to sue them? So you choices are: pay for everything out of pocket and maybe prevail in court years later, or let the employers insurance cover you and lose your rights.

This state is long overdue for legislation giving employee's rights to workers at all levels, but when your legislators are in bed with big business instead of representing the people who put them in office, you get what you see in this state.

For workers who put food in their bosses mouth, there is no more honest statement than "no good deed goes un-punished."


Article Comment raider commented at 3/26/2011 8:44:00 AM:

Last Wednesday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report that found that Mississipppi was at the very bottom of the list in average personal income. Not only was it at the bottom of the list but people in Mississippi only earn about 3/4 of the average personal income of the rest of the USA.
jdgill is right that workers in this state can be replaced but I applaud the workers at Omnova for standing up for what they believe is right. There is a saying that "if won't stand for something, you will fall for anything." Unfortunately here in Mississippi, the people have been falling for anything big business and politicians have to say. The politicians of this state will not be happy until the wages for workers in this state are competive with the wages of workers in China and Mexico and the rest of the third world.


Article Comment buddyboy commented at 3/26/2011 8:47:00 AM:

Unions once had a good purpose in our history. There are labor laws that have been implemented that protect employees from bad employers. Today, unions basically protect and encourage poor work ethics. Just look at the air traffic controller that is not going to be fired for sleeping on the job. The union solution is to hire another employee with the purpose of keeping each other awake I guess. That solution is not cost efficient. Union demands are no longer affordable. Wake up America. I hope Omnova moves on with replacement workers and decertifies that union.


Article Comment frank commented at 3/26/2011 10:48:00 AM:

This union contract happened to expire at a time when the company had maximum negotiating advantage. The economy was in deep recession which meant that demand for product was low. Thus a production lapse would have minimal effect. The local unemployment rate was around 20%. This meant that eager, trainable, replacement workers were readily available.

This was an ill timed strike. The old saying that sometimes you got know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em, applies here. It appears the union should have folded, cut their losses, and lived to play the next round when the new contract expired. It is very likely that labor would have had the advantage then. Instead the labor leaders made their bet and played a weak hand.

I feel for the hard working people who are out of work and have walked those picket lines for a year. They fought a good fight and made great personal sacrifices, but all the conspiracy theories about the company, this newspaper, and the government, are over the top. This situation is nothing more than a typical labor vs. management struggle where management was in the better position.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 3/27/2011 6:38:00 AM:

Buddyboy, you couldn't be more wrong about employment laws, especially in this state. Mississippi is a Right to Work state which means your employer can fire you just because he doesn't like your shirt or your haircut. He can also rip off your wages with the blessings of the Labor Dept.

As long as you are actually paid minimum wage times the number of hours worked, your boss can skim the rest off the top and no one will care. So if he owes you $1000 for that week, all he legally has to pay you is Min.Wage x 40 hours. Don't bother arguing with me about it, I have had it done to me, I've lived it.

Labor Laws in this country and state are a joke. They were designed to benefit one person, and one person only: the employer.

And it is way past time for that to change, but as long as you people keep electing the same "good ole boys" into office you can expect more of the same.


Article Comment jls commented at 3/27/2011 1:31:00 PM:

Frank, I think your comments are spot-on. I, too, feel badly for those on the picket line. Unfortunately, it is just another case of misplaced fervor trumping rational decisionmaking. Those folks should've known that their SEMI-SKILLED positions could be easily filled when they walked off the job. Instead, they thought they could hold their employer hostage while, all the time, the employer actually held the upper hand. Pity.


Article Comment citizenkane commented at 3/28/2011 10:44:00 AM:

Comments from those in support of company actions are ill-informed of the situation. They do not have a personal knowledge of issues, nor the employees/members of Union. Has anyone taken the time to stop by the Union Hall, and actually talk to members there? I doubt very much anyone in Columbus or elsewhere would like having their salary cut by one-half and told to go to the shift they're told or work the amount of hours told. Or maybe told, a less senior employee is taking your place on the current job you hold. Yes, it was a bad economic time for Union, but don't you maybe think company took advantage of this, to totally "rip" the employees? Ever heard of PRINCIPAL? There is more to this story than is being told, it'll all come out in the end. Columbus will be embrassed; at the bad city government, as well as the company's actions in dealing with employees. What goes around, comes around. If not in this life, then most certainly in the next. Corporations and their leadership are destroying America. Wake up.
This company is not part of this community, but the Union people are. The last strike 40 years ago, businesses in Columbus, actually supported the Union. Times have changed, I know some Union people who will not buy in this community AGAIN, unless it's a small independant person.


Article Comment regularolegal commented at 3/28/2011 2:20:00 PM:

First of all, take your money and drive 30 miles to purchase whatever. You won't make an impact on the local economy like you think you will. Lot's of people in Columbus shop in other towns just because they want to and want more options. Nothing new for this town.

Every employee working a job these days has had to take a cut in one way or another. However, unlike the selfish union worker, they have been willing to continue to work because they need a job to pay their bills. They need a job to pay for their child's college education and aren't willing to abandon a responsibility they have to their employer. They aren't willing to lose their home for selfish reasons. Sometimes we all need to sacrifice in order to survive and have to put aside that selfish pride that seems to get in the way with unions.

I'm sure the union thought that with Obama at the helm, they were going to get what they wanted and more by strong arming the business they worked for but it seems in this case that you are the ones who will suffer in the end. I applaud Omnova for standing by their decisions. You all keep making these threats that all will be known in the end. Why, when facing permanent unemployment, are you holding back information? Sounds like a stupid idea when you are financially suffering.

The "tacks in the tire" ordeal is enough for me to understand what it going on. Why would a community want to support a group of childish men and women who keep throwing tacks in the road causing everyone in the community to have to pay for flat tires? Why would businesses who have suffered through the tack ordeal want to support a group who plays childish games in an effort to punish companies who do business with Omnova? Sit back and think about this for a moment and I think you will have your answer. I guess in the end when your backs are to the wall and you will soon be considered trespassers on Omnova property, you go to blaming everyone else for the decision you made last year. You made that decision to not accept the companies terms and you are the one to blame for anything that happens to the employees in your union. It's sad when a bunch of selfish older men choose to take away the livelihood of younger employees because they are so set in their ways because they are spoiled by union benefits.

Suck it up guys and gals. You are soon to be forever unemployed at Omnova and back on the streets making a much less wage with not much benefits. Blame no one but yourself in the end.


Article Comment hope commented at 3/28/2011 8:24:00 PM:

@regularolegal:Every employee working a job these days have taken a pay cut one way or the other. And the reason being is because of the eight (8) years of leadership under a corporate President disguised as a human. Retirees lost most, if not all, of their savings when the stock market crashed, people lost value in their homes when the housing market crashed. And when our corporate President left office, we were at or near a full blown depression. If workers keep giving back to Corporations, they will become like those in China. Poisoned Chinese iPhone workers still seeking treatment. A group of Chinese workers who were poisoned while mfg. iPhones say Apple has yet to provide for the additional medical treatment that they urgently need. They have sent E-Mails to Steve Jobs asking him to help, but no response. This is what hard work and dedication to their employer got them.
All it takes to replace workers nowadays is a phone call.


Article Comment tomsawyer commented at 3/29/2011 3:24:00 PM:

Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep.... You hear that, thats the sound of the wrecking ball backing up to the union hall...


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 3/29/2011 11:07:00 PM:

I don't know what all you corporate supporters are so glib could easily be next. Bet we'll hear you singing the blues the next day too.

And before you start getting notions, I don't have a dog in the Omnova fight, but I do know a thing or two about sorry corporations and how they act. Which is more than most of you seem to know judging by your "sweat of my brow" comments.

Keep laughing, you're next Bozo.


Article Comment localvender commented at 4/21/2011 9:50:00 PM:

I'm a local self employed business man in Columbus. I provide a service. Ive been in business for 29 years. I pay my own health insurance. I give my own self a raise when I can and lay my self off when its time to tighten belts. I have watched this strike with interest since it beginnings. In the first few months, my heart went out to these folks striking for their cause as I would notice them when traveling up and down hwy 69 South. One day I got a call as a vendor to come to the plant by one of the new employees there. Only there a few minutes. I thought nothing of it as I would have gladly gone to the Union office if called by someone there. Next day my parking lots full of nails/tacks. No sympathy for you Pricks now!


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