December 28, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
In the last two years, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has tried unsuccessfully to organize 230 employees at GKN Aerospace in Amityville, Long Island. Their next shot at unionization will come during a vote slated for January 11.
But after a close call last year in which the union lost by just 6 votes, plant operators don't appear to be satisfied with letting the election play out – instead hiring outside consultants to dampen union fervor at the factory and firing two pro-union workers just days before Christmas.
"The difference this year is that they've changed their tactics," said James Conigliaro, IAMAW District 15 directing business representative.
The District 15 chief calls GKN charges that the fired union supporters intimidated fellow workers and unlawfully used company facilities to generate campaign literature, "baseless." And IAMAW has since filed complaints with the National Labor Relations board in protest.
The IAMAW is also answering back and showing solidarity with GKN's largely Latino workers, by staging regular demonstrations outside the plant located at 100 New Horizons Boulevard.
"We're out there showing support for the people and their rights," Conigliaro said. "It's their right in this country to join a union if they want, and not give in to intimidation by employers."
GKN Aerospace – a multi-national conglomerate with deep roots in the aviation industry, and employing roughly 12,000 people in more than 35 facilities located in 4 continents – has responded by continually trying to break up the IAWAM rallies.
"The company does everything it can to get us moved," Conigliaro said. "As soon as we get there, the cops get there. They tell us we can't park there. They just try to make it difficult for us to be out there."
Some workers have also reportedly expressed fears that the company they work for will retaliate against them, as well, if they do talk to the union.
The IAMAW actually holds contracts with GKN Aerospace in other places like St. Louis, Missouri where workers earn about $5-an-hour more and pay roughly 30 to 40 percent less for their medical coverage than their Long Island, New York counterparts.
"They just have a much better work rules and contracts – and they're in the same union," Conigliaro said.
The IAMAW plans on stepping up its activities in support of GKN's Amityville workers as the January 11 vote draws nearer. The IAMAW, meanwhile, is hoping that the third time around will, indeed, be a charm.
"We certainly have enough cards to win an election," Conigliaro said. "We feel good about it. The group is very strong. It's just a question of whether they stick with us, or whether these consultants that are talking with them every day get to them or not. These people have access to them all day, everyday, and we don't. We only have access to them once they come outside the gates, or if they come to a meeting."