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Vallourec workers to take union vote next week

Published: Sat, January 18, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Tom McParland



Five hundred Vallourec plant workers will vote next week on whether to join the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, union and company representatives say.

The National Labor Review Board will oversee the election, scheduled for Tuesday to Thursday at the Vallourec facility, which produces steel pipes for the oil and gas industry.

Pro-union employees said next week’s vote is the result of a nearly yearlong organizing effort aimed at protecting worker wages and benefits and other concerns.

Judson Wallace, president of Vallourec Star, said in a statement that unionization would benefit neither the company nor its employees.

“While we support the rights of employees to choose whether they wish to organize a union, we do not believe this would add value, foster teamwork or add to the competitiveness of the company,” Wallace said.

“Vallourec Star employees enjoy competitive wage rates and positive working conditions, which they receive without a union,” he said.

The UE said in a statement that the organizing effort was spurred in part by pension cuts, reductions in holiday and premium pay and a two-tier wage system that puts newer mill employees at lower wage levels.

“We need a binding contract that protects and improves our rights, wages and benefits,” said Bill Allen, a longtime mill employee.

According to UE representative Karen Hardin, pro-union employees have tangled with Vallourec in recent months. The union recently filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, accusing Vallourec of interfering with organizing efforts.

At issue was Vallourec’s employee handbook, which prohibited employees from “distributing literature and circulating petitions during work time” on company property. Other complaints centered on intimidation, harassment and verbal abuse directed at organizing employees by the company and Vallourec security guards, she said.

While the company changed its solicitation and distribution policy, the NLRB scheduled a hearing for the second week of February to address the other unresolved issues.

Pro-union employees and the UE will take their campaign public this weekend with a press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. today.

Workers from Vallourec plants in France will show their support at the event. They say that more than 80 percent of Vallourec’s 23,000 worldwide workers are members of unions.

Allen said Youngstown’s workers should have the same opportunity as their French counterparts, who he said can make up to $5 more an hour as members of the French metal workers union CGT.

Vallourec Star has operated a pipe mill in Youngstown for 11 years, and employs about 820 employees at the Brier Hill Business Park off Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Vallourec officials are expected to make a decision in less than 90 days about an $81.5 million steel-pipe threading facility about a mile from the company’s $1.1 billion expansion mill.

The company wants to use the former Genmak Steel building and an additional 67,500 square feet nearby in the city’s Ohio Works Business Park for the VAM USA LLC threading plant.

The facility would employ 84 full-time workers by early next year.

City council approved a 10-year, 75-percent property-tax abatement for the proposed VAM project, and the city will receive $300,000 from the state for improvement work at the location should the Vallourec subsidiary expand there.

When asked if the labor issue would impact the expansion, Youngstown Finance Director David Bozanich said, “The city has no knowledge of any difficulties that would relate to not moving ahead with the project except for the company’s final decision on locating there.”

The city does business with companies that have unionized workers and those that do not, he said.

“The ultimate decision [on the union issue] is made by the employees and the company,” Bozanich said. “We don’t interfere. Everyone wants a plant built here and the new jobs. We’re trying to facilitate that.”

Contributor: David Skolnick


1Roger_Thornhill(930 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Great idea, form a union and do to Vallourec what unions did to the rest of US steel industry.

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2Letstryagain(189 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

While I respect the right for employees to form a union, particularly to battle egregious workplace misconduct, union representation of workers as a % of the workforce is declining rapidly.

The auto industry has demonstrated that unions are not a panacea for the worker and in the long run do not offer the often promised guarantees.

If the employees want to do something special for themselves, consider a leadership position that allows them to represent themselves without the self-defeating laws that union representation brings to their workplace.

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3DontBanThisDrone(758 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

^ How did decertifying the union change the companies from non-profitable to profitable?


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4WeMovedBacktoOHwhy(1 comment)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Welcome to the beginning of the end for the best opportunity this town has seen in years. Comparing workers pay in France to Youngstown...that's just stupid. Go ahead and unionize, see how many people lose their jobs to pay for all your future crap.

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5redvert(2172 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

I do not remember when I posted this, but it was right about the time that VLM was negotiating with Ytown and Girard over building the plant. I said then that the union would wait until Vallourec was well invested in the area and then at that time would bring in the union. From reading this article, it sounds like the union is already starting to play some of their BS games. I hope Vallourec sticks it to the valley if the union does prevail.

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6bmanresident(607 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Well. It seems to me that the putrid sewage that are unions would soon seep into the areas one good thing to happen. These Democrat controlled union thugs will destroy any progress the area is making any chance they get.
At least the workers can start peddling drugs like their UAW counterparts now that they can't get fired.

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7republicanRick(1476 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, that was fun while it lasted. The unions will destroy more jobs. Union thug Bill Allen will help to ruin more lives. His family should be ashamed.

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8JoeFromHubbard(1430 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

After about 8 posts thus far, we can see that there are some intelligent readers here.

Unionization of the Vallourec facility will put a quick halt to further development there.

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9polhack(129 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Great post Cycler. Union organizers are nearly as good as politicians at building non-issues into a big deal for their own benefit. I suspect they're promising the same six-week vacation every new hire starts with in France, too. Inviting a union into a profitable business is like asking your mother-in-law to dinner in a restaurant. Nothing will ever taste right, it will always cost too much and no one will have fun.

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10JoeFromHubbard(1430 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Hey, BillB, don't call them stupid.

They may get mad and unionize.

Wait until after next week to make a call on their intelligence.

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11TT466(1 comment)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

What give you the right to call us stupid we built a pipe mill second to none. It was all of us working together. It was are hard work that convinced Vallourec to invest 650 million for a new pipe mill. If we vote for a union or not we are still going to do are best to make this company a world class operation.

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12bambam812(4 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Being one of the not dumb employees of Vallourec star I wish to set the record straight here for the majority of the star workers. WE do not need nor want a union interfering with the great relationship that we currentjy have here. This union was enticed by a few disenfranchised older mill hands and seen major dollars to fatten the international UE's coffers at our expense, they have divided our workforce and made promises that they could never keep, brought in foreigner's to confuse the misinformed and uneducated. We the majority at Vallourec are in a fierce battle to maintain our great standard of living and allow a world class organization like Vallourec to continue bringing wealth and opportunity to the valley that needs this gem to help make the area great again.. please don't paint us all idiot's. CHRISTOPHER GALLAGHER. Grateful Vallourec Employee

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13republicanRick(1476 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Remember the Warren GE workers that voted to shutdown their plant and collect a $ 2500 severance bonus rather than let younger workers have jobs?

Bill Allen is a snake in the grass who is looking to only enrich his family. Shameful.

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14walter_sobchak(2246 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

If you are a good worker that produces for the company and doesn't cause any problems, you will be rewarded and there is no need to form a labor union. While they served their purpose many years ago, they only protect the lazy and incompetent. Why would anyone in their right mind pay somebody for the right to work? Not me; never have and never will.

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15chazz53071(6 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

This Union and the very thought that we need them are both jokes. I bust my butt in that mill and I have no desire to hand my hard earned money over to some lazy union fat cat. We do not need them! Vallourec is one of the best jobs in the area if not the best, period. We are well paid, have excellent benefits, alot of vacation, 401k, bonuses & many other perks. I have no idea what these pro union people are thinking or what they think is going to happen? Maybe they forgot how good they have it after all their years at Star. Their hard work helped put Vallourec where it is at today, not the Union. VOTE NO!!!

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16polhack(129 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Bambam812 are you trying to direct some thuggery to the person you named in your post? While I believe your statements about the value of Valourec, it seems odd you would use both screen and non- screen names. Remember the union leader wannabes are usually the jerks who ice pick tires and key paint jobs. Without specific targets, they may be dumb enough to vandalize each other's cars.

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17OldManDownTown2(1 comment)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Going union is good for all the workers, whether they want to believe that or not. In my lifetime I have worked non-union and union jobs, and the union jobs was much better. The only thing that I don't agree with is the selection of the union, namely the IUE. The IUE was representing the Delphi workers and we all know what happened there. Workers claim they don't want two-tier wage scales, which I agree with. But the IUE was the union that started the two-tier wages way back in the 1980's. Over the years the two tier wage scale didn't get better for the workers, it just got worse. For many years at contract time the IUE relied on the UAW to get better contracts. Having worked in the auto industry and my knowledge if I was to recommend a union to join and represent me, it would be the Teamsters. But that's the workers choice to decide who represents them, just hope they make the right choice.

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18HenryTheBear(23 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

its foolish to believe that this will hurt the chances of the expansion project. Boils down to a simple business decision. Why pay unnecessary transportation costs to thread a finished product just to stick it to a community? The reason the location of the expansion is less the a mile away from the mill.

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19HenryTheBear(23 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

when you think of Cycler's post, just remember the French arent taxed at 4 levels of government like we are.

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