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US Union Wins Imerys Recognition Vote

ICEM Update, no. 59/2000, 23 June 2000

[40Kb] An American union has won a hard-fought election to represent Imerys workers at the company's Sylacauga site in Alabama. Imerys is a leading materials and minerals multinational, and a global trade union campaign played an important part in the election victory.

"We won against all odds by showing our union had real power against this giant global corporation," said Charles Stevens, an Imerys worker and one of the leaders of the organising committee for the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE). The union secured a 205 to 181 victory on 22 June in a secret ballot election to represent 400 workers at the Imerys plant.

Imerys withdrew recognition of the union in June, 1999, after the company acquired English China Clays (ECC) and combined a much larger non-union ECC plant with its unionised Georgia Marble facility just next to it. Imerys claimed the union no longer represented a majority of workers at the combined operation. PACE immediately formed an organising committee, made up initially of union members from Georgia Marble, after the withdrawal of recognition, and started contacting non-union ECC workers.

The victory, according to PACE Organiser Joe Wilson, who led the drive in Sylacauga, was the culmination of a year-long campaign. "Most ECC workers had little knowledge of a union, and the company used brutal scare tactics to keep the workers from talking to union supporters from Georgia Marble," said Wilson. "Eventually, we broke the spiral of fear by fighting back with a combination of hard work, proven organising methods and a sophisticated 21st century global campaign that overwhelmed the company."

The global campaign was orchestrated by PACE Special Projects Director Joe Drexler and by the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), to which PACE is affiliated.