Novelis may have to bargain with union

By Ashley M. Casey

The National Labor Relations Board may force the Novelis plant in Scriba to negotiate with the United Steelworkers on behalf of its workers.

The call for this bargaining order comes after the NLRB charged Novelis with unfair labor practices related to interference in efforts to unionize the Scriba plant.

In February, Novelis workers narrowly voted not to join the USW. NLRB claims that Novelis threatened job loss and wage reductions before the vote and falsified documents regarding benefits.

“The company is accused of manipulating documents to make it appear that the union was behind a plan to rescind those benefits,” USW said in a May 14 press release.

Jim Ridgeway, a local representative for USW, said these charges are separate from similar unfair labor practices charges filed earlier this year by the USW.

“It’s not the Steelworkers that are doing it, it’s the federal government,” Ridgeway told The Valley News. “They believe that … (Novelis’) actions have poisoned the well.”

The NLRB’s bargaining order means that USW will negotiate with Novelis on behalf of the Scriba workers, despite the failed unionization vote in February.

“It would be just like we won the election,” Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway said the case will appear before an administrative law judge June 16. Possible penalties for Novelis are up to the judge.

Novelis issued a statement in response to the news of the hearing:

“The filing means the Board has reviewed the unfair labor practice charges and believes enough information has been provided from both sides to merit a hearing. It is a standard practice and not unusual,” the statement read. “Novelis leadership has and will continue  to communicate in a positive, open and lawful manner with employees as we focus our efforts on safe production during this exciting time of growth for the Oswego plant.”

According to the USW, the situation is not as common as Novelis says it is.

“The NLRB only seeks these orders when an employer’s illegal conduct is so egregious and extreme that it makes it impossible to have a fair election,” USW attorney Brad Manzolillo said in the May 14 release.

Ridgeway echoed that statement: “The board’s saying they don’t even think a fair election could be held with all the company is done.”

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