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Bid to unionize fails at Staples Center

April 26, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

HALFWAY - A drive to organize workers at the Staples Distribution Center in Washington County has failed, according to representatives of the company and the United Steelworkers of America.

The vote was held April 14 and April 17, according to Don Forcino, Maryland organizing coordinator for the union.

Forcino said the union does not divulge vote tallies.

Forcino said many more than the legally required 30 percent of the distribution center's employees signed authorization cards to petition for membership in the union. He said workers' complaints centered on wages and working conditions.

"It's justice and dignity on the job," he said.

Christina Erridge, a spokeswoman for the Framingham, Mass., company, said unionization bids are rare at the company.

"We believe that all of our associates can deal directly with the company. We strive to maintain a positive working environment," she said. "We're always talking to our associates."

Forcino said Staples vigorously opposed the union bid.

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"They went out and hired one of the most renowned union-busting law firms in the nation," he said.

Erridge said Staples uses a legal firm to advise the company on all employee issues.

Like other unions, the United Steelworkers has seen its membership wane as its manufacturing base has declined. Forcino said the union has reached out to other sectors of the economy in recent years.

The Staples bid was initiated by workers at the company, he said. Forcino said union campaigns are difficult at any firm, though, because companies are able to communicate directly with their employees on the job.

"If you could get to the people, it would not be a hard time. But you have to remember, the companies have an advantage," he said.

By law, a vote on unionization at a plant can take place only once a year. Forcino did not rule out future attempts.

"If the employees want us back, we'll be back," he said.

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