The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered a new vote in a union representation election because the North Carolina plant’s owners violated labor law when it threatened, spied on and intimidated workers who wanted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

On August 27, the NLRB ruled that Stabilus Inc. violated more than a dozen unfair labor practices in connection with a May 2004 UAW representation election – including threatening workers with job loss if they voted union, spying on meetings and interrogating workers about union activity.

The NLRB ruling comes after Stabilus – a Gastonia-based global manufacturer of gas springs and pneumatic devices for the automotive and furniture industries – appealed an earlier decision in September 2005. In that ruling, the administrative law judge ordered a new election at the plant, citing 13 instances of ULPs in the previous 2004 election.

“It’s a significant victory and a testament to the patience of those Stabilus workers who hung in there all this time,” said Gary Casteel, director of UAW Region 8, which covers the southeast United States, including North Carolina.

“But it’s also an example of how broken the U.S. labor laws are and how badly we need labor law reform. That workers had to wait six years for a new election is unconscionable,” he added. “With President Obama’s recent appointments to the NLRB, perhaps we’ll see more worker-friendly board rulings like this.”
 
In February 2004, most of Stabilus’ hourly workers decided to form their own union, and in March, the UAW petitioned the NLRB to become the collective bargaining representative.

In a May 2004 election, the UAW lost the election by just three votes, 244-242.

The UAW filed objections with the NLRB following the election because of the employer’s outrageous behavior during the election process.

The objections were based on company officials threatening workers with job loss if they voted for the UAW, spying on meetings and interrogating workers about union activity.

On November 15, 2004, an NLRB administrative law judge first heard testimony in a Gaston (N.C.) County court. Almost six years later, the second election for the company’s 450 workers is pending.

Stabilus, which moved its North American headquarters here in 1997, has 10 plants worldwide on five continents. It is adjacent to Freightliner LLC’s former Gastonia parts manufacturing plant (now Daimler Parts North America), where more than 700 UAW Local 5286 members ratified their first contract in December 2003.

“These same Stabilus workers were there when we ran our organizing campaign in February 2003 at that Freightliner plant, so they know the benefits of UAW representation,” said Casteel, adding the union also represents about 1,200 UAW Local 5285 members at Freightliner’s Mount Holly, N.C., plant.