Employees at Youngstown’s Exal Corp. expressed frustration Friday that an ongoing dispute with Teamsters Local 377 was preventing a worker vote on whether to organize, alleging that the union used delay tactics to put off a vote it would have lost.
Gathered outside of the company’s building at Performance Place Business Park, employees said the Teamsters brought frivolous last-minute charges against the company that now are under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board.
A union spokesman denied the union’s action was frivolous and said the company had been “breaking the law.”
The delay in the vote prompted anger among employees on both sides of the issue who said they just want to put the matter to rest.
“All of us believe it’s in our best interest just to have a vote and move on,” said Woody Booth, an Exal employee of eight years.
Booth and other workers said an overwhelming number of employees oppose organizing with the Teamsters and that the Teamsters would have lost an up-or-down vote scheduled for this past Tuesday and Wednesday.
But they learned Nov. 15 that the vote was canceled, pending an investigation into claims raised by the Teamsters.
Some employees initially raised concerns with the company about 10 months ago, which began a debate about organizing and drew in the Teamsters.
During that initial dispute, the union claimed Exal had tried to sway employees to vote against organizing.
After an investigation by the NLRB into those charges, the two sides reached a settlement agreement, but the new charges levied this month allege that Exal violated some terms of that pact.
Ralph Cook, a Teamsters spokesman, said “the charges were filed because the company was breaking the law” and actively encouraging workers to vote against organizing.
“That’s not true,” Booth said. He added that any lobbying efforts were the work of the workers, not management.
“That’s something that we’re allowed to do as employees, is be patrons of what we believe in,” he said.
Exal CEO Michael Hoffman would not comment on the latest charges raised by the Teamsters, but he did express skepticism about the timing, saying he supports his employees’ right to vote on the matter.
“They feel cheated out of an opportunity to vote,” he said.
The lingering dispute has drawn the attention of some local politicians.
State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, is a Teamster himself. He said the union contacted him in the spring.
“My support always lies with men and women who are fighting for collective bargaining,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, confirmed that he has had numerous conversations with parties on both sides, but he said it would be “inappropriate” to “unduly influence the results of this election.”
“I will remain steadfast in my support of laws that allow workers the right to organize, but it is up to the men and women working at Exal who have to make that decision,” he said in a statement.
But a vote cannot take place at least until the NLRB fully investigates the Teamsters’ claims, which could take months.
The NLRB did not respond to a request for an interview.
Exal makes aluminum cans and bottles.