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Published: Friday, 7/15/2005

Union passion still strong at McComb plant

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

McCOMB, Ohio -Three years after a failed campaign to unionize a Consolidated Biscuit Co. cookie plant here, passions continue to bake.

Several dozen supporters of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union gathered outside the plant this week to protest a federal board's failure to act quickly on an appeal by the company of a judge's order which found management wrongdoing and ordered a new union election.

McComb, a community of 1,700 people, is 45 miles south of Toledo in Hancock County.

"It's frustrating three years from your election with all these delays," said John Price, a union representative. "It doesn't normally take this long."

Neither company president James Appold nor the firm's Toledo lawyer could be reached for comment yesterday. The locally-based firm, whose customers include Kraft Nabisco, produces $320 million in cookies and crackers annually at factories here and elsewhere, according to the Harris Ohio Industrial Directory.

The protest came 16 months after Arthur Amchan, a labor board administrative law judge, cited the company for violations of federal labor laws and ordered reinstatement with back pay of seven wrongly discharged union supporters.

Consolidated appealed the decision to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, where the matter has been pending since January, 2004.

The five-member board, appointed by the president, has been down two members since last fall, said Patricia Gilbert, a board spokesman.

"The board's attention has been focused on trying to get some of the older cases settled, maybe older than this," she said.

Union representatives said they have met with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and others to speed up the case.

Mr. Amchan issued his findings following nine days of hearings in Bowling Green in 2003 - one year after the union lost the election, 286 to 485. The union claims that the company created a climate of fear that prevented a fair election.

Frederick Calatrello, the labor board's regional director in Cleveland, found merit in the union's claim and ordered the hearings.

In his ruling, Mr. Amchan said that because of Consolidated's "egregious and widespread misconduct, demonstrating a general disregard for the employees' fundamental rights," a broad order was necessary requiring the company to cease and desist from infringing in any other manner on employees' rights guaranteed by federal labor laws.

Actions cited included firing employees for union activity; instructing security personnel to call police at the first sign of union activity; erecting signs indicating video surveillance in areas where union supporters congregated; warning that the company could go bankrupt if the union was voted in, and requiring employees to remove from their arms messages supporting the union.

Since the election, the union has accused the company of violating other labor laws. The allegations will be the subject of new hearings, Mr. Price said.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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