Manufacturer pays off former employees to settle claims it tried to quash union activity

By Whit Richardson, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 11, 2013, at 7:03 p.m.

WINSLOW, Maine — ALCOM Inc., a manufacturer of aluminum trailers for snowmobiles and other vehicles, has settled with five former employees who claimed they were fired for trying to form a union.

According to the settlement, the company did not admit guilt, but agreed to pay each employee $17,000, according to Robert Kline, ALCOM’s attorney.

“We denied any responsibility, and denied doing anything illegal. This was an effort to put it behind us and move ahead and make trailers instead of go to court.”

In May, the five employees were trying to form a local chapter of Laborers International Union of North America, or LIUNA, which represents 500 workers in Maine, when they claimed the company fired them because of their activities. The Laborers New England Region Organizing Fund in late May filed complaints of unfair labor practices against ALCOM with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the employees.

The NLRB is in place to protect employees who, under the National Labor Relations Act, are free to organize unions, among other things.

Ultimately, the Laborers New England Region Organizing Fund filed nine charges with the NLRB against the company — one related to each fired employee, along with four others related to illegal interrogation and surveillance.

In addition to the monetary portion of the settlement, the employees also agreed to not bring any additional legal action against the company and to never apply for future positions with the company, Kline told the Bangor Daily News.

Devin Mayo, an organizer with LIUNA who was helping the ALCOM employees organize, said three of the former employees are currently working on the Summit Natural Gas pipeline project in the Kennebec Valley, while the other two are collecting unemployment and “going over options.”

He said they were happy with the settlement.

“It’s what the guys wanted,” he said. “It’s been about the workers from the start. They came to us, we didn’t go to them.”

The NLRB found merit in the other four charges against ALCOM, but those cases are still open, Mayo said.

A message left for Trapper Clark, CEO of ALCOM, was not returned late Wednesday afternoon.

In a May interview with the Bangor Daily News, Clark denied claims the company fired any employees for union activity.

“We would never do that,” he told the BDN at the time. “[The claims] are completely false and it’s unfortunate that [the union] would even print something like that.”

Though ALCOM has not admitted guilt, Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, of which LIUNA is a part, said the settlement speaks for itself.

“After a thorough investigation, the National Labor Relations Board found merit in the unfair labor practice charges including illegal termination,” he said in a statement. “I trust that workers and folks in the community can figure out why ALCOM chose to settle the charges against the company.”

Meanwhile, Mayo said ALCOM employees are continuing efforts to form a union at their workplace. He said no union vote is currently scheduled.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/09/11/business/manufacturer-pays-off-former-employees-to-settle-claims-it-tried-to-quash-union-activity/ printed on July 24, 2014