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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.


1polhack(129 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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2republicanRick(1716 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

A generation ago unions were helpful in building the American dream.

That was 50 years ago. Now, they are only political machines that steal money from workers to give to the union leaders and liberal politicians.

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3NoBS(2758 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I see my Kleenex stock is, if you'll pardon the metaphor, rising.

All you haters, think about this: The employees at Vallourec are treated well enough that they felt they did not need a union to go to bat for them. That's their right, and I have no problem with it. But did any of you ever think that the mere possibility of unionization is the reason the employees are treated so well?

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4glbtactivist(320 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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5redvert(2238 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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6bmanresident(607 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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776Ytown(1343 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

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

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8JoeFromHubbard(1768 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Today's Vindy print edition had an ironic front page. Two side by side stories, one of life and the other of death.

The death of the Warren GE plant, forced by the unwillingness of the union workers to compromise and save the business.

The life of the Vallourec facility maintained by the cooperation of the work force.

Local labor has begun to recognize that cooperation rather than confrontation is the best practice to preserve employment.

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9jojuggie(1701 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Hey gibtac, the reason people are on food stamps is because there are no jobs. Do you remember when was the last time Obama had a Job Council meeting? He is so tied up with his failing Obamacare that everything is going to h***.
I remember one Jobs Council meeting that he had where just about every attendee was a union officier. The National Chamber of Commerce wasn't even invited. Since when do unions create jobs?
You have what you voted for.

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10Philo(99 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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1176Ytown(1343 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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12DSquared(1778 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Don't fret. The Unions will send a goon squad to the employee parking lot to show them the error of their vote! "

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13JoeFromHubbard(1768 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

@ theotherside:

Don't worry about the repeal of existing labor laws.

Organized labor (union membership) has been in constant decline for decades but the labor laws remain on the books.

You and I will be long gone before your nightmare scenario has a chance to play out.

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14MillCreekParkDem(2 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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15DontBanThisDrone(1036 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I bet the Delphi retirees wish they would have had a union.


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16polhack(129 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months 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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17dontbeafool(2058 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I am pro union, but they are only as good as the people running them. I have seen management do whatever they want, whenever they want, to good employees. Some management is fair and care about their employees, some only care about profit. I've also seen union officials abuse their power. I still think overall, the unionized workers have better wages and working conditions.

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18NilesOhio(986 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months 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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19dontbeafool(2058 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Zz, get your facts straight! Our borders have been broken long before Obama! Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than ANY other president! Look it up!

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20MillCreekParkDem(2 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

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

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21kurtw(1758 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Otherside in his comments makes some extremely good points- we owe a lot to Unions and the sacrifices that Union members made in the past. All workers- whether they choose to Unionize or not- benefit from that.

It's a question of balance. Buddhists talk about the Middle Way- avoiding extremes- as best- a balance between the rights of workers and management.

If the owners of Vallourec knew their workers lacked the option, or choice, of unionizing- would their attitude toward their workers be different from what it is now? I'm pretty sure it would- so, in effect, the Vallourec workers- whether they join the Union or not- directly benefit from the Union.

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22dontbeafool(2058 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

It is all good now, like a new romantic relationship. But somewhere down the road, when all of the romance wears off, these guys will wish that they had a union to represent them.

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23kurtw(1758 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

In that case they can change their vote. The point I was trying to make in my post is that the very fact that a Union exists is a plus for the workers- whether they are currently unionized or not.

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2476Ytown(1343 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months 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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