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Hussey employees vote to join USW

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By Brent Schanding

Landmark News Service

A day after they overwhelmingly approved a union, Hussey Fabricated Products workers filed suit against their employer, alleging it unfairly revoked cell phone and smoking privileges at the plant, a union spokesperson said.

Workers at Hussey Fabricated Products voted to unionize Thursday, in a move that unites the Eminence machining plant with its sister factory, Hussey Copper Ltd.

HFP opened in 2000 and employs about 72 non-supervisory workers, according to plans on file with the state. A 40-24 vote last week gave those hourly workers - and at least eight other probationary laborers - expanded employment and bargaining rights, a union attorney said.

A forthcoming contract should also secure benefits and give workers the power to strike against unfair practices, although a strike is not likely, several representatives of the union said.

"The people at the facility for the most part have decent benefits," Dave Suetholz, an attorney for the United Steelworkers said. "But without a contract they could be here today, gone tomorrow."

The union will serve as "employment insurance" for the plant's workers, Suetholz said, so that workers aren't unfairly terminated.

"When you work under a union contract you're covered by just cause," he said. "An employer can't just fire someone at whim."

Attempts to unionize the plant have been ongoing for at least two years, when workers then defeated union efforts by one vote. At that time, management made promises and convinced people to say no, Suetholz said. But forced overtime at the plant likely convinced some workers to reconsider the union vote last week, he said.

At least 90 workers at neighboring Hussey Copper, Ltd. - a sister-plant also operated by Roy D. Allen of Leetsdale, Pa. - endorsed union efforts with petitions of support.

"It was a pretty strong showing of support from the neighboring facility," which approved its own union by a narrow margin two years ago, Suetholz said.

Union efforts at Hussey Fabricated Products were largely led by worker James Hyatt, who will likely be elected as unit president in an upcoming election.

Union dues will likely represent 1.6 percent of the worker's earnings, according to Suetholz. Dues are approved by USW's national coalition of more than 850,000 constituents.

Since the union was approved, Sam Elliott, state organizing coordinator for the union, said Hussey has revoked smoking rights and cell phone privileges to workers.

"That's a blatant violation of federal labor laws," Elliott said.

Those laws state employers cannot make changes to work conditions until they legally bargain with the union. Elliott on Friday said USW has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board Region 9 office in Cincinnati to resolve those matters.

A spokesperson for Hussey in Leetsdale did not return phone calls by press time.

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