Workers at Sunoptics, a Sacramento-based manufacturer of prismatic skylights, will vote Jan. 10 on union representation by IBEW Local 1245.
The union filed the petition for election with the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 26 after more than three-quarters of Sunoptics’ employees signed authorization cards seeking IBEW representation.
The organizing drive was sparked when Sunoptics employees contacted the IBEW after learning that their parent company, Acuity Brands, had IBEW-represented employees at five other locations around the country: in New York, Indiana, Minnesota, southern California and the company’s home office in Georgia.
Jennifer Gray, an organizer for the IBEW’s International Office, met with a couple of the workers in early October. Their major issues included numerous safety concerns , frequent schedule changes, lack of training, favoritism, wages, and a complete lack of respect.
“There have been two sawing accidents in just the past couple of months,” said Gray, who was an active member-organizer at IBEW 1245 before joining the IBEW’s International staff in October.
That initial meeting led to the creation of a Volunteer Organizing Committee, which circulated authorization cards among their fellow employees during all three shifts. In all, 77% of the 79-member workforce signed authorization cards.
The union sought voluntary recognition from the company, to no avail. On Nov. 26 Gray and IBEW 1245 Organizer Fred Ross Jr. filed a petition for election at the San Francisco office of the National Labor Relations Board.
Management has used the usual tricks in resisting the union drive. They’ve suddenly taken action on a few of the workplace problems that have been festering for a long time.
“They’ve provided requested safety equipment and heaters,” said Gray. “They’ve fired two problematic managers and they’re building a new break room.”
The sudden flurry of action by management has caused employees to wonder why their concerns are suddenly getting noticed, right at the time the union has come onto the scene.
Management summoned employees to group meetings, hoping to convince them that the IBEW could not help their situation. But the meetings didn’t go so well.
“Too many members were speaking up so they stopped the meetings,” said Gray. Since then, management has focused more on “captive audience” meetings with smaller groups and individual workers.
Union organizers have responded with acts of solidarity. One day last week was designated as “T-shirt Day.” First, the members of the Volunteer Organizing Committee showed up at work in IBEW t-shirts, but soon the word spread, Gray said.
“We got a call—‘We need more shirts!’ So we brought in a bunch more t-shirts. When HR came out of a meeting they saw the shirts had multiplied!” she said.
The union is holding informational meetings for Sunoptics workers every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at Round Table Pizza at 1307 Florin Road in Sacramento.
“We’ll continue to get information out there and invite people to hear the other side of things, not just the company’s union-bashing lies,” Gray said.
Workers at Sunoptics include welders, maintenance techs, equipment operators, group leads, materials handlers, field techs, and assemblers. The NLRB-supervised election on Jan. 10 will be conducted in the company’s “Green Room” during two one-hour slots: 6:45 a.m. – 7:45 a.m., and 2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
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