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Dixon resident files second federal labor complaint

Cox wants results of secret election shared

DIXON – Karen Cox has filed a second federal complaint in an attempt to get the results of a secret-ballot election that was taken to remove the union at her workplace.

Also, the Dixon resident is asking that union dues be held until the results are shared.

Cox has filed the complaint against the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union representing workers at Americold Logistics in Rochelle.

The grievance says the union violated her rights by posting coercive notices in the workplace designed to mislead workers, according to a press release from the National Right to Work Foundation, representing Cox.

These claims are “completely false,” union president Daniel Williams said Monday in a telephone interview.

In June 2012, the RWDSU Local 578 unionized Cox’s workplace and reached a 5-year contract this past June, according to a release from the union’s communication office. The union has 111 members.

During that time, Cox began a campaign to remove the union and filed the first labor complaint this past winter.  

She says co-workers were passing out union cards in spring 2012 to those in favor of organizing, saying it would be used for general information purposes.

Those against it, such as Cox, were surprised a year later when the announcement came that more than 50 percent signed cards and that her company had recognized its own labor union.

In August, workers participated in a secret-ballot election to remove the union from their workplace.

At the request of the union, the results of the election were impounded pending review by the National Labor Relations Board.

“We put it into litigation,” Williams said. “Some of the employees that were terminated, we wanted them to be allowed to vote, because they were in the grievance procedure. We felt they should be able to, but that’s in the NLRB’s hands.”

This month, union officials posted a notice in the workplace demanding workers become full dues-paying union members, or they will be fired, according to the National Right to Work Foundation release.

These claims are false, Williams said.

“We haven’t forced anybody. We haven’t taken any dues. Not a dime,” Williams said. “We’ve just started that process, because it’s been 3 months [without collecting dues].”

The notice did not inform workers of their rights to refrain from union membership and full dues payments, the National Right to Work said.

Also, the complaint says the union stipulated that workers must fill out a union dues deduction authorization form as a condition of their employment, although workers cannot lawfully be required to fill out such a form to pay union dues, the organization said.

Illinois does not have Right to Work protections.

Cox and her co-workers could be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment if the union is not removed as a result of the workers’ August vote.  

However, because the results of the election are unknown, Cox is asking the labor board to allow workers to retroactively refrain from union membership and full dues payments back to the time they were first subjected to the union agreement.

Cox also asks that union officials be required to keep all dues and fees received from workers in an escrow account pending results of the August election with the condition that union officials must return the money to the workers if a majority of the workers had voted to remove the union from their workplace.

A majority of voters initially voted in favor of the union, but Cox said that vote was conducted unfairly, requesting the second secret vote.

Williams contests the first vote was taken fairly.

“This wasn’t a case where we were trying to tell [Americold employees] they had to do this,” Williams said. “I’d say about 70 percent of them came to us.”

Additionally, the RWDSU local represents employees at Del Monte Foods in Rochelle.

Cox and some of her co-workers have been disruptive during union meetings to share information among members, Williams said.

Americold workers had complained of a taxing and confusing scheduling system with five different shifts and a lack of health insurance benefits, leading to the formation of the union, according to a release from the RWDSU’s communication office.

The labor agreement includes wage increases over the next 5 years with lump-sum bonuses plus a $300 signing bonus, the union said.

Based in Atlanta, Americold owns and operates more than 182 temperature-controlled warehouses in the United States and globally.

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