December 17, 2014

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Lorain Council resolution backs Camaco union effort

LORAIN — Unionizing efforts at Camaco got a symbolic boost Monday from City Council members.

Members approved a resolution calling on the auto parts maker to “respect the rights of its employees to form their union if they so choose.”

The resolution notes that Camaco has received past Lorain taxpayer support through low-cost loans, land sales and infrastructure improvements.

The resolution was sponsored by Councilman Brian Gates, D-2nd Ward. Camaco, at 3400 Industrial Park Road, is in Gates’ ward. Gates said he was asked by Jim Slone, United Auto Workers Community Action Program president, to sponsor the resolution

The resolution comes after allegations of union-busting by Camaco. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a Camaco manager was “coercively interrogating” two workers and unjustly fired one of them after they tried to unionize in 2006.

Gates said by phone after the meeting that he didn’t know if those allegations were true but he believes workers “should have the right to organize into a union if that’s what they believe they need.”

Matthew Fox, a Camaco worker who said he was indefinitely suspended April 14 by Camaco for unionizing efforts, said the resolution, while symbolic, will have an impact.

“It’s going to show some of the workers who are undecided or who are a little apprehensive about throwing their support behind organizing that Camaco is not entitled to intimidate and lie to the workers,” said Fox, who said he has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board about his suspension. “Camaco has been intimidating people and that’s just not right.”

Reached before the meeting, Dave Smith, Camaco vice president of operations, wouldn’t say whether the resolution will affect unionizing efforts. Smith said Camaco, “recognizes the right of every employee to join or support any union and their right to refrain from doing so.”

Lorain County commissioners on May 21 approved a diluted version of the resolution passed Monday. The county resolution didn’t name Camaco. While the 1935 National Labor Relations Act legalized the right of workers to unionize, commissioners refused to name Camaco, fearing Lorain County might lose federal taxpayer money if seen as taking sides in a labor dispute.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.