January 16, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
After two tries, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) District 15 has successfully organized workers at a factory in Amityville, Long Island, and the head of the union expects the hard-fought victory to inspire other workers to organize as well.
"I certainly think it will spark other people to to say, 'Hey, maybe we should do the same thing. Those workers stood up. We should stand up and get the same results,'" IAMAW District 15 directing business representative Jim Conigliaro told LaborPress. "It's a great victory for the entire labor movement. We should have a lot more of these."
Workers at GKN Aerospace, located at 1000 New Horizons Boulevard, voted to join the IAMAW on June 11 by a clear margin of 108 to 88.
"It was the workers," Conigliaro said. "They really put their heart and soul into talking with their co-workers and explaining to them why they needed this for their families."
The IAMAW chief also said that GKN's aggressive efforts to discourage unionization at the Amityville plant may have ultimately backfired on management. After successfully keeping the union out the last two years, GKN made the decision to fire two of the shop's most ardent union advocates just days before Christmas.
"The company implemented a pension plan at their other location out in St. Louis," Conigliaro said. "And, of course, our guys don't have that. So, that was a big deal. That was important. Also, I think that the firing of the two workers made the rest of the workers a lot stronger. When they saw that the company would turn around and fire workers with that kind of seniority - one guy had 24 years - I think it fueled them, and made them want to vote for the union even more."
The National Labor Relations Board is currently investing the firings, and Conigliaro said that the union hopes to have both men working back at the plant very soon. GKN, meanwhile is contesting the results of the January 11 election, but the IAMAW isn't concerned, and expects the vote to be certified after a brief delay.
"The company filed a few board charges, which they always try to do," Conigliaro said. "We're not worried about the board charges, but it might cause a delay by a few weeks, but then we'll be certified. Once that happens, we'll write some letters demanding that the company bargain with the union."
Pensions, affordable healthcare and job protections will top the list of priorities for workers, who now lag behind their GKN counterparts in St. Louis in all those categories.
"This is a manor international company, of course, they can afford it," Conigliaro said. "Their customers are the U.S. Government and Boeing."
While the victory is a big win for the small IAMAW's District 15, Conigliaro said that he really views the January 11 vote as a win for workers at the Amityville plant and beyond.
"I think it was a big deal that they showed everybody that if you stand up for your rights you can achieve a better life for yourself and your family," Conigliaro said. "We're happy with the results. The company ran a real strong anti-union campaign. We actually thought it would be a little closer than than it was."
Last year's vote at the GKN Amityville plant fell just six votes short of unionization.