Union members at Imerys in Sylacauga, Ala., reaffirmed their commitment to each other and their union, Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Union (PACE), Jan. 21 when they defeated a management-orchestrated decertification campaign by a vote of 233-108.

This is the second time in four years that these workers have turned back an anti-union campaign with the help of international solidarity, according to a report from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM).

Imerys is a French-based producer of building and construction materials. PACE and ICEM took Imerys on in 1999 and 2000 when the firm purchased a nonunion plant adjacent to its PACE-represented one in Sylacauga. The company then claimed the combined workforce no longer wanted union representation and orchestrated a decertification campaign, allowing the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a “yes” or “no” vote for the union.

PACE and ICEM brought the dispute before Imerys workers in France, Belgium, Australia and U.K. Prior to the vote, ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs visited Sylacauga and pledged to “make it so hot” for Imerys that it would want a “solution.” The global pressure forced management to let up the pressure on the workers, who then overwhelmingly voted for PACE. A three-year labor agreement was negotiated.

As the contract expired early this year, the second management-inspired decertification vote was held. Despite a bombardment of blatant anti-union materials and rhetoric at home and at work, the workers and their union prevailed.

The ICEM vows that, along with its affiliates throughout the company’s global operations, it will be closely following future developments in Sylacauga.

The author can be reached at rwood@pww.org.

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