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Freudenberg employees hope union becomes official

Aaron Krause • Aug 31, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Employees of Freudenberg-NOK near Milan are hoping to officially form a union, arguing management has shown favoritism, disrespect and implemented an unfair disciplinary process, among other issues.

However, nine contested votes against forming a union stand in the way of the union becoming official.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has challenged several "no" votes. Union officials contend temporary or salaried employees, who are prohibited from voting, cast the "no" ballots.

The matter will come down to a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether the "no" votes are thrown out.

Melanie Jett, a material technician for six years, said the original vote was 103-97. Company officials were later able to prove one of the employees was eligible to vote, bringing the total to 103 in favor and 98 against.

While there's a waiting period, Jett said she's excited Freudenberg-NOK unofficially is unionized.

"It's not about money; it was about favoritism and equality in the plant," Jett said. "Everybody should be given a fair shot at a job."

Employee Devin Grosswiler, a material technician for 6 1/2 years, provided the Reflector with a list of reasons why he and fellow worker Chris Doerner decided to launch the process to form a union. They are: Unfair disciplinary process, no job security, no contract, no voice, high insurance cost, no partnership, segregated work meetings, no seniority rights, favoritism and disrespect.

Company officials provided a prepared statement after the Reflector informed them about the accusations.

"We can't speculate about the motivation behind this vote and do not know the basis for any speculation provided by others," said Lisa Bastian, vice president of human resources for Americas.

"However, we will continue to promote an environment based on the well-being of the associates, plant leadership and our business. Our global policies align with these principles, as well as our obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, and are the basis for all relations with our associates," she said.

Grosswiler said he and Doerner "decided that we had seen enough, so I called the UAW organizing department out of Michigan."

"They told me and Chris to put together a team of about five people to meet an organizer. The organizer came down and we met with him at my house and we then grew the committee to well over 45 workers and went public after we obtained enough support from fellow co-workers. Now we are here because of all of our co-workers who helped us achieve our goal," Grosswiler said.

"The company itself is a nice place to work," Jett said.

"It's not the friendliest" of an employee has an issue, she added.

According to its website, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies is one of 16 global subsidiaries of the Freudenberg Group.

"With its partners NOK Corporation, Japan, Sigma Freudenberg NOK, India and NOK-Freudenberg Group China, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies is a global organization that provides customers with high quality, custom-engineered products and processes that consistently meet exacting industry standard. With 45 locations around the world, we are wherever our customers are."

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