USW vs. Georgia Pacific: another ‘Employee Free Choice’ moment

WHEATFIELD, Ind. — United Steelworkers and retirees from around Indiana and Illinois came to this rural area here Nov.3 to show support for their union at Georgia Pacific’s wallboard plant there. It’s a common story in testimony to the need for labor law reform and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Going through the regular National Labor Relations Board election process, the workers here voted to be represented by the USW in 2006. They won the vote despite the usual unfair company advantages including voting on company property, being subjected to company intimidation and forced, in plant, captive audience meetings. Even then the company stalled any real negotiations on a first contract for over two years.

Then as agreement was finally being negotiated a small, company inspired “vote no” committee filed to decertify the union. They hoped to play on the natural frustration of members who fought hard to win the election and get the union, only to have the company stonewall negotiations blocking any gains for the workers.

The plant gate rally for a “yes” vote for the union was held just two days before a new election vote will be held to keep the USW union in the plant. Judging by the response of the workers at shift change the stalling and intimidation tactics of the company will not work. Many workers parked their cars on leaving the plant and joined the rally for a “yes” vote. “USW Vote Yes” buttons were passed out to wear on election day and confidence was good.

Most attention to EFCA in the media has focused on the majority sign-up provisions, but the Wheatfield experience underlines the importance of provisions in the bill that mandate a time limit and arbitration if necessary to reach a first agreement in a timely way.



Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall is a vice chair of the Communist Party and chair of its Labor Commission. Scott grew up in Virginia where he first became active in the civil rights movement in high school, working on voter registration and anti-Klan projects in rural Southern Virginia and Tennessee. He was also active against the war in Vietnam.

Scott has been a life long trade unionist and was active in rank and file reform movements in the Teamsters, Machinists and Steelworkers unions in the 1970s and '80s. He was co-chair of the Save Our Jobs committee of USWA local 1834 at Pullman Standard in Chicago and active in nationwide organizing against plant shutdowns and layoffs. He was a founder of the unemployed organization Jobs or Income Now (Join), in Chicago, and the National Congress of Unemployed Organizations in the 1980s.

Scott has worked for the Communist Party since 1987 when he became the district organizer for the party in Illinois, a post he held until he was elected chair of the National Labor Commission in 1997. Scott remains active in SOAR (Steelworkers Active Organized Retirees). He lives in Chicago.