United Steelworkers Claim Company Not Keeping Workers Safe During Covid Crisis


Powerless to do anything, the United Steelworkers claims Kumho Tire isn’t keeping its workers safe during the Coronavirus pandemic.

MACON, GA—After workers at a Kumho tire plant in Georgia narrowly voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers last year, the United Steelworkers—still without a contract—appears to be trying to put pressure on the company by claiming in a press release that Kumho Tire is not keeping its workers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hourly workers at Kumho report that the company has consistently failed to implement the most basic safety precautions since the beginning of the pandemic,” the union claims on its website.

“On July 20,” according to the union, “several workers attended the Macon-Bibb Board of Health public meeting to express concerns about the unsafe conditions in the facility that they are afraid could put them, their families and their communities at risk.”

Although the Korean tire maker’s Georgia employees voted to unionize in September 2019, the election has not been certified and the Steelworkers’ efforts to secure a contract and collect union dues has, so far been stymied.

Given the union’s unsuccessful efforts to secure a contract and union dues, its claims that the company is not adequately protecting its employees may merely be part of its overall campaign against Kumho.

“As soon as the crisis became clear, the USW reached out to Kumho management to request information and meetings about COVID-19 protocols,” the union claims. “Unfortunately, the company refused to respond.”

According to the Macon Newsroom, which visited the plant in late June, the company had established multiple safety protocols, including the installation of hand sanitizer stations, temperature checks and staggered shifts, as well as conducted cleaning during two plant shutdowns.

There was a time the company couldn’t get refills for the dispensers already installed, the company ordered a couple of different brands and put up additional dispensers, reported the Macon Newsroom.

The robotic nature of Kumho’s assembly line helps provide adequate social distancing in the 1 million square foot-facility, stated Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority executive director Stephen Adams.

Like many companies throughout the country (union and non-union alike) due to the health emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kumho Tire has implemented safety protocols without input from the Steelworkers.

In late March, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) provided some clarity for unionized employers dealing with the pandemic.

In a memo, the NLRB’s general counsel highlighted several of the NLRB’s past rulings during public emergencies.

“The memo also addresses the ‘economic exigencies’ exception to the duty to bargain,” summarized attorneys with the law firm of Day Pitney.

In the Steelworkers’ case at Kumho Tire, since the union neither has a contract with the company, nor is it currently bargaining with the Company, its position is one of an outsider looking in and all it can do is issue press releases in an attempt try to keep itself relevant.


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