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Vallourec workers overwhelmingly reject union bid

Published: Fri, January 24, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

Yearlong effort ends with 367-148 vote




After Vallourec Star workers overwhelmingly rejected a bid to unionize, the company said it would continue to build on its strong relationship with employees.

“We at Vallourec Star are proud of our ongoing investments in our employees and the local community and will continue to provide a safe and respectful workplace where pay and benefits programs remain some of the best in the [V]alley and surrounding areas,” the company said in a statement.

The 367-148 vote was the culmination of a nearly yearlong organizing effort. Some employees took issue with benefits and a two-tier wage system that pays some employees more than others.

Despite the defeat, Chuck Lepowsky, a Vallourec lab technician, said the company has responded to some of the concerns raised during the campaign.

“They did say that they would try to address the issues, but we’ll just have to see how that goes,” said Lepowsky, who was instrumental in organizing the campaign to join the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

The National Labor Relations Board, which supervised the election, officially will confirm the results in about a week.

Vallourec Star President Judson Wallace opposed the effort, saying in a previous statement a third party would not add value or competitiveness to a company where “employees enjoy competitive wage rates and positive working conditions” without a union.

Karen Hardin, a spokeswoman for the UE International, was proud of the effort but blamed the loss on an “aggressive anti-union” campaign in which the company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We ran a very respectful, a very honest campaign,” she said shortly after learning the results.

The UE and pro-union employees doubled down on their organizing efforts late last week, staging multiple media events to gain momentum. A delegation of Vallourec workers from France, where all workers are unionized, joined plant workers at a Saturday press conference in a show of solidarity.

Girard Mayor James J. Melfi said he had been following the election from a distance.

The city of Girard agreed in 2009 to transfer 191 acres to Youngstown in exchange for a share of tax revenue generated by the new Vallourec facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Melfi said he was not surprised at Thursday’s outcome, given futile attempts in the past to unionize with the United Steelworkers of America. Still, he said he has heard strong opinions among constituents on both sides of the issue.

The election came at a time when Vallourec officials are considering the construction of an $81.5 million steel-pipe threading facility about a mile from the company’s $1.1 billion expansion mill.

Youngstown City Council approved a 10-year, 75 percent tax abatement for the VAM USA LLC project at the former Genmark Steel building at the city’s nearby Ohio Works Business Park.

Youngstown is set to receive $300,000 from the state for improvement work at the location should the Vallourec subsidiary expand there.

The proposed expansion may have weighed on the minds of both employees and company officials, said Curtis Lockwood Reynolds, an assistant economics professor at Kent State University.

Unionization would have meant higher costs for the company, which could have jeopardized the expansion, he said.

A pro-union vote could lave caused the company to “decide that expansion is no longer feasible,” said Lockwood Reynolds, who specializes in labor economics.

He added that the new project, which could add 85 jobs, likely was part of pre-vote posturing that often happens on both sides of an organizing campaign.

Lockwood Reynolds said pro-union employees had little leverage in the campaign because there are not many opportunities for outside work in a still-struggling economy.

Despite the huge margin, the minority aired their grievances in what Lockwood Reynolds considered to be a “warning shot” to the company.

“It could provide long-term benefits to employees,” he said. In the future, Vallourec may have to “think a little more carefully” about its workers’ concerns.


1suefull(22 comments)posted 8 months ago

Smart move! We don't need them in our lives. Worthless! Keep them out of the pockets of my family. Back in the day of my grandparents, they were needed. By the way, don't show up at my home

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2boardman92(5 comments)posted 8 months ago

Maybe workers in this area are finally seeing the light. Unions in this day and age are job killers. This area has been almost all pro-union for decades now...how's that worked out for us?

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3UticaShale(854 comments)posted 8 months ago

"Unions are only necessary in a monopoly."

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4polhack(129 comments)posted 8 months ago

Congratulations Vallourec employees on a wise and courageous choice to break with the hostile labor relations of this area and go to work on the good thing you know you've got.
Vallourec management, you're riding a wave of good relations, don't screw it up. People here work well when their contribution is appreciated and their dignity as human beings recognized. Fail that and you will lose a valuable asset.
UE, the voting is done, go home. Maybe stop by GEs Lamp Plant in Warren on the way and offer to help those unfortunate folks who misplaced their trust in rabid unionism.

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5youngstown615(98 comments)posted 8 months ago

I agree with a lot of the other post; the Unions were great in the day. As a retired union worker, I have seen how the unions throw the retires under the bus, for the sake of the workers. This may seem ok, but everyone retires sooner or later, must live on whatever benifits they can derive from the contracts, which is always nothing, for retirees. GM, at one time, had over 11,000 employees at Lordstown; now there are around 4500. Did they really save jobs for the valley ? The union reps. would walk around with their clip boards and go to lunch at the local bars, and pretend that they were working for us. I , now, don't think the were.

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6glbtactivist(250 comments)posted 8 months ago

Now we know how in this day and age workers are forced to work for slave wages. Why minimum wage is unlivable. Why they will have to go for food stamps. Unable to pay for good housing, new cars, and nice vacations like workers used to be able to do in the days when unions were strong.

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7redvert(2064 comments)posted 8 months ago

This is very good news for the ytown community. Now other businesses will see that area workers prefer to think for themselves instead of just being sheep .

boardman92, you stated it very well!

Now if the ytown voters would just elect a nice mix of liberals and conservatives, there may be hope for the rest of the valley! Voting straight democrat for decades hasn't worked too well either has it?

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8bmanresident(597 comments)posted 8 months ago

This a great day for workers everywhere. The mob connected drug infested unions will not be pillaging these hard working folks.

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9commoncitizen(961 comments)posted 8 months ago

glb, Minimum wage was NOT intended to be a LIVING earnings. It was intended to be a "start up" job wage mostly for high school/college students and retirees that wanted to supplement their income. Now you want people flipping burgers, etc. to earn what a person working in a factory earns, is that fair?
As far as the two tier program for wages ---why not? WHY should a new hire get what someone that has worked 5,10,20 years earns, is that fair? I would say AFTER 6 months,1year they get raise and after two years they could reach the top level.(or some schedule)
Why do the unions want to protect the "new" hires more then helping the retirees? Because the retirees will no longer be paying union dues!!

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1076Ytown(1242 comments)posted 8 months ago

Glad to know that people still have common sense and can think for themselves.

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11YSUgrad99(200 comments)posted 8 months ago

Sensibility in Youngstown! Who would have thunk it? Hope the expansion proceeds!

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12stateline(69 comments)posted 8 months ago

Its nice to see an article on here that everyone can agree on and praise.

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13hurrdurr(98 comments)posted 8 months ago

If unions are so terrible, anyone that hates them should feel free to work 80 hour weeks without overtime. No vacation. No benefits. Sign your kids up to work too.

Then go over to the graves of your ancestors who fought for labor rights and spit on them while you're at it.

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14theotherside(333 comments)posted 8 months ago

The workers at Vallourec were certainly within their rights to reject a union. But remember that they had the opportunity to do so because that right was fought for by the very organization they rejected - the unions. Consider the history. Businesses and corporation didn't provide the right to organize. They fought it tooth and nail. If it wasn't for the unions lobbying the legislature and the politicians for laws permitting organized labor to exist, the Vallourec workers would not even have had that option. I hope the workers there well, but be careful what you wish for. Unions certainly have a black eye, but it is always better to have the option to organize than not.

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15Philo(99 comments)posted 8 months ago

Bravo to the workers at Vallourec for making a sensible decision. The tide may finally be turning in the Valley. Hopefully, more investors and manufacturers will consider locating here to take advantage of the fantastic work ethic that we exhibit and our prime location. If this can happen in Youngstown, of all places, it makes you wonder whether a statewide ballot to provide workplace freedom, through right to work legislation, would pass? If you want to join a union, you can. If you don't want to join a union (or pay dues) then you shouldn't have to. What's more important than personal freedom? It happened in Michigan and Indiana, and manufacturing facilities (and the jobs that come with them) are flocking to both states.

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1676Ytown(1242 comments)posted 8 months ago

Hurrdurr: Fair Labor Standards Act protects workers by requiring overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a work week at time and one half. Family Leave Act FMLA protects workers jobs in the event they need to take time off for medical or maternity and even allows time off for new parents to bond with a newborn or adopted child. Workers compensation, COBRA and
HIPAA, and ERISA protect health and pension benefits.

In fact, over 180 Federal Laws that protect benefits and rights have been enacted through the years as well. Unions have served an important place in history but they have served their purpose.

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17theotherside(333 comments)posted 8 months ago

The argument that since laws exist to protect workers, there is no need for unions is naive at best. Those laws would not exist in the first place if it wasn't for unions. Corporations and businesses didn't support those efforts. And they still don't. They only follow them because they are the law. If unions are gone, watch how fast those laws are repealed and those protections disappear. There is no reason to believe that corporations and businesses won't move to repeal those protections if they know organized labor no longer exists. Is that a chance we really want to take?

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18theotherside(333 comments)posted 8 months ago


Maybe. Maybe not. I say we don't take a chance but I'm only one voice, one vote. And I sure would hate to leave a slave labor legacy to my kids and grand kids as a result of not worrying about it.

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19MillCreekParkDem(2 comments)posted 8 months ago

For all of you bad mouthing unions please note the decline in union membership parallels exactly with the decline of the middle class. Also please note that right to work states make on average $1500.00 per month less than workers in non right to work states. Unions are needed now more than ever.

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20polhack(129 comments)posted 7 months, 4 weeks ago

MCPDem the decline of the middle class also coincides with being pimped out by their union leadership to provide PAC contributions and large vote blocks to fat cat politicians with whom they have more in common than they do with the working men and women they allegedly represent. Today, any company that gets a union has treated their employees badly enough to deserve one. At that point, their only option is to move offshore if they want to make enough money to stay in business.

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21NilesOhio(724 comments)posted 7 months, 3 weeks ago

@hurrdurr - "If unions are so terrible, anyone that hates them should feel free to work 80 hour weeks without overtime. No vacation. No benefits."

I've never worked for a union, and I work 40 hours a week, 3 weeks vacation, full benefits and a good salary. I'm also not lazy and keep my skills up to date so others don't have to try to keep me employed. To me, everyone should be responsible for themselves and not depend on unions or the government to coddle them through life.

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22MillCreekParkDem(2 comments)posted 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Polhack-????. zz3-WTF are you talking about!

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23L0L(660 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago


Not all salary positions receive overtime. Some are required to put in whatever amount of hours are needed in the "work" week at their 40 hour a week pay. The only salary positions that I'm aware of that receive overtime compensation are unionized. And FYI I'm making a point, not sticking up for either side of this argument.

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2476Ytown(1242 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

LOL: The overtime rules for salaried employees are governed by Federal Labor Laws (FLSA).
There are exemptions to overtime pay for some salaried employees but not because of the union.


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