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National Labor Relations Board sides with Novelis employees on union

Payne Horning
WRVO News (file photo)
Novelis engineer Teresa Santoferrara inspects the metal furnace at the Oswego County plant.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is ordering the central New York aluminum manufacturer Novelis to work with its employees to create a union. 

The ruling from the three-member panel charges Novelis with committing "numerous and widespread unfair labor practices." It's citing the company's actions during the winter of 2013 to 2014 when the Oswego plant's employees were preparing for an election on whether to form the union. The panel said the company violated federal labor laws by discouraging its employees from unionizing, as Jim Ridgeway with the United Steelworker's Union recalls.

"They actually threatened various acts if they did vote to go union," Ridgeway said. "Some of them was to cut benefits, some to curtail operations, cease expansions and things like that."

The NLRB said company officials also banned employees from wearing union insignia and even demoted one employee for an online post supporting the union, which the company maintained was a violation of their social media policy.

Ridgeway said the company's aggressive tactics were responsible for the result of the 2014 vote, which decided against forming a union by 14 votes. But this ruling from the NLRB affirms an administrative law judge's earlier decision to scrap the results of that vote and create the union.

Ridgeway said while Novelis can continue the legal battle, their employees are ready to negotiate.

"We are hoping now the company will quit spending money on frivolous appeals and come to the table and spend money on their employees like we wanted all along," Ridgeway said. 

But in a statement, Novelis said it does plan to appeal the decision to federal court. 

"We disagree with the NLRB’s ruling, as our employees have already spoken on the issue of joining the United Steelworkers (USW) and made their voices heard in a fair and lawful election.
Because our obligation is, as it has been throughout this process, to ensure that our employees’ decision is validated and respected, we will appeal this decision in the federal courts system, where our employees’ decision had been previously validated in the September 2014 U.S. District Court decision, and the court denied the NLRB’s request for a bargaining order.
We have enjoyed a direct and open relationship with our employees for more than 50 years and will continue to defend their choice to maintain that."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.