Union files NLRB charges against Hytek Finishes
KENT – Management at Hytek Finishes has violated the rights of its workers under federal labor law as they try to negotiate their first Machinists Union contract, the union alleges.
“We waited until the very last second, hoping to get a contract without involving the NLRB,” said Kevin Cummings, a Machinists Union Grand Lodge representative who is leading the negotiating team for the union. “Unfortunately, the company is more interested in stalling.”
The union alleges that Hytek management has coerced and discriminated against union activists, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
In addition, the union claims that Hytek managers have violated the law by making unilateral changes in workplace policies, practices, procedures and working conditions while negotiations have been underway. Such moves also are against the National Labor Relations Act, the union says.
Hytek employs about 170 people at its plant in Kent. The workers do metal processing – such as chrome and nickel plating – for aerospace manufacturers including Boeing, Lockheed and Bell Helicopters.
The work involves handling hundreds of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals and materials, and the union has made worker safety a major issue in the negotiations.
The workers voted to join Machinists District 751 by a more-than 2-to-1 margin in August. Talks on a first contract began in October. Some 99 percent of workers voting in December approved a strike sanction measure, indicating they are united behind their union bargaining team.
The union reports that while negotiations continue with managers of the Esterline subsidiary, the talks have bogged down.
Along with safety, pocketbook issues are a sticking point. The Hytek workers earn, on average, $16 an hour, which the union says is too low given the complex work they perform. In addition, the workers are saddled with an Esterline corporate health care plan that requires them to pay up to $7,200 a year out of pocket.
The current health plan is so bad, Cummings said, about a third of the workforce refuses to take it. “Esterline seems to have a Wal-Mart approach to benefits,” he said. “We think their workers deserve better than that.”
The union is also fighting to change Hytek’s current system for promotions and pay upgrades. Cummings said the current system requires workers to meet training and performance standards to earn promotions, but the training isn’t available to all workers and there are no objective standards for workers to show they’ve mastered the skills.
That allows managers to manipulate the process so that only their friends and relatives get raises and promotions, Cummings said. “We are not interested in accepting a system that is not fair and transparent.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 31,000 working men and women at 45 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In December, District 751 members ratified a four-year contract extension with Boeing that ensured the 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.
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