September 13, 2011 12:57:00 PM
Though the ballots are in, it could be weeks before it is decided whether Omnova Solutions in Columbus will become a non-union plant or continue to be bound to Local 748-L.
Nearly 170 union workers went on strike on May 21 after refusing to agree to the company''s final offer to renew the union contract. The workers were concerned with losing incentives, seniority and shift rights included in the previous contract.
Since then, Omnova has hired about 140 replacement workers. And the workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election to make Omnova non-union.
On July 8, the NLRB mailed ballots to the workers still on strike after their contract expired on May 15, 2010. Replacement workers were scheduled to vote at the plant on July 13.
The Labor Relations Board was overseeing a hearing this morning and afternoon at the Lowndes County Courthouse, because parties on both sides of the issue are contesting ballots.
"We''re in hopes that the labor board counts all of our votes and we have more than a majority, and we are still going to be the union that represents the plant," said Jay Lawrence, president of the local union.
According to Lawrence, among the ballots being contested by Omnova are 13 from employees they say retired and so are ineligible to vote. There also were some irregularities with mailed ballots that were improperly sealed or signed, he said.
Replacement workers need a majority vote for the company to officially cut ties with the union.
"What all this boils down to in a nutshell, if the company is successful with the vote to make it a non-union plant ... it would make the company more flexible in hiring," said Lawrence, noting Omnova officials then could solicit the workers who went on strike, to cross the picket line.
"If (Omnova) does that while it''s a union plant, then we have the right to file board charges against (the company)," Lawrence said.
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