Union vote underway at Cooper - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Union vote underway at Cooper

June 7, 2005

Albany-- The Cooper Tire and Rubber Company plant employees are voting on whether to unionize. Employees expect it to be a very close vote, and one that will have a big impact on the plant's future.

Many Cooper shift workers made a special trip to the plant today just to vote.

Allen Watts III said "For my family's future, not just me, for family and my job security."

1,320 employees at the Albany Cooper Tire and Rubber Company will be affected by the two day secret ballot. The vote is a simple one question, yes or no, to join the United Steelworkers of America Union.

Cooper Employee Donald Hayes said "Evidently there is enough people who want to vote, and they think there is a reason for a vote."

The union petitioned April 27th for the vote to organize. In a statement, Cooper management says it's a bad idea. The statement says "In a world in which 50% of the tires sold in the United States are produced outside the U.S., Cooper doesn't believe a union is in the best interests of our company, our plant, our employees, or the Albany community."

But many employees told us they need a union. Employee Jimmy Marlin said "Dealing with the union, at least I know we have a contract. Right now we have nothing but a handshake, and that's not the way business is done anymore."

Opponents are saying if the Albany plant unionizes, it could be closed and the operation moved to China. Allen Watts said "I voted no for the union and yes for the company. Cooper has been here for many years without the union, and doing fine."

Cooper employs about 1500 people in Albany, with an annual salary of $82 million. One thing everyone agrees on, the union vote will be very close. "We talk about it amongst the workers," said Watts. "Of course there is a certain amount that is for the union, and a certain amount that is not for the union."

Officials of the National Labor Relations Board will count the votes after 9:00 Wednesday night.

 In a full page newspaper ad that ran Sunday, union supporters claim that union employees at Cooper's Texarkana and Findlay Ohio plants get better insurance, pension, and severance packages than Albany employees.

Cooper purchased the 1.8 million-square-foot plant in Albany as its fourth tire manufacturing facility in 1990. Production of passenger and all-steel light truck radials begins at the Albany plant a year later.

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