Issues of working conditions, workplace safety, and unrealistic production expectations are among reasons being given for why some workers at Star Manufacturing want union representation.
According to an organizer for the United Steel Workers Union, a vote is set for Thursday, July 23 at Star Manufacturing locations in Smithville and Cookeville.
"We were contacted by employees of Star Manufacturing asking us how they can be represented by our union. It was a group of over a dozen people that met to discuss why they felt like they needed a union. The group said that they were not being treated fairly in the workplace and concerns they brought to management's attention were not taken seriously or outright ignored. Issues of workplace safety, working conditions, and unrealistic production expectations were common among all that we spoke to," said Duane Prichett, an organizer with the United Steel Workers Union in an interview with WJLE Monday.
According Prichett, the complaints were shared by employees at both the Smithville and Cookeville facilities. "To determine if these concerns are widespread through the facility or if this is just a few people who feel like they're getting a raw deal, we asked them (employees) to get together a larger group of people. We then had several meetings with dozens of Star employees and they all had similar issues. We now have a large majority who have signed cards (seeking union representation)."
"During our meetings, we were informed of some troubling conditions at the plant. Supervisors and managers having outbursts of yelling and belittling workers for not getting production units out that they didn't even have parts to complete; threats of write-ups and terminations; there were safety issues as well; and lighting conditions and environmental control issues like air conditioning and heat stress putting workers at risk," said Pritchett.
"One thing that really drove home the conditions that concerned us all was that many employees complained of a work rule that prevented them from even using the bathroom for thirty minutes before or after breaks or lunch. These issues they have expressed are things that unions have fought against since the founding of unions in this country. It was apparent to us that the basic dignity and respect that men and women in the workplace must be given in this country, they were being denied. Workers deserve to be treated better than this and we'll help them fight to get something that's better for them. They deserve that," added Prichett.
WJLE contacted the Star plant manager in Smithville by telephone Monday but he declined comment at this time.
According to the NLRB website, eligible Star Manufacturing voters include all full-time and regular part-time production employees, maintenance employees, cell leaders, quality control employees, and shipping employees employed by Star Manufacturing International Inc in Smithville and shipping employees at the facility on West Broad Street in Cookeville but excluding all other employees, office clerical employees, professional employees, guards and supervisors.
The union vote in Smithville will be Thursday, July 23 from 5:00 am - 5:30 am , 6:30 am - 8:30 am, and from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm. Voting in Cookeville will be from 10:15 am - 10:45 am.
Star Manufacturing International, Inc. is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri but has companies in several states. Star has been making durable, reliable, quality products since 1921. That year, Star introduced its first product, a popcorn machine. Since then, the company has grown and expanded into one of the world's most respected and valued manufacturers of products in six major categories: Counter Top Gas and Electric Commercial Cooking Appliances, Hot Dog Cooking and Preparation Equipment, Popcorn Machines, Specialty Food Warmers ,Display Merchandisers, Toasters & Waffle Bakers.