Notwithstanding management intimidation, harassment, and a concerted effort to pressure workers to vote against unionization, the permanent employees at the Electrolux manufacturing plant in Nashville, Tennessee have voted overwhelmingly to join the IBEW.
93% of the 712 eligible workers cast ballots, and a whopping 75% voted to join IBEW Local 474, giving the union a decisive victory in the deep south. The tenacious spirit of the Electrolux workers, the commitment of IBEW Local 474 and the International office, and strong solidarity from IBEW Local 1245’s organizing team all contributed to this important win.
“We Stand Together”
When workers at the Electrolux appliance manufacturing plant in Memphis decided to unionize with IBEW Local 474, they knew it would be an uphill battle. The employer was working aggressively to prevent the workers at its new plant from unionizing, and the first attempt to organize at Electrolux in 2015 fell short by about 50 votes. But the workers refused to give up. Instead, they doubled down their efforts, and reached out for help from IBEW Local 1245.
Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell quickly answered the call, dispatching four Organizing Stewards to support the organizing campaign at Electrolux. Miguel Pagan, Mary Corrente, Nilda Garcia and Angelica Altamirano travelled to Memphis during the month of August, where they worked tirelessly alongside the workers and the team from Local 474 to gather support for the union.
“The most memorable [part of the experience] was seeing the employees’ facial expressions when we whole-heartedly told them why we were there, and reassuring them that we stand together with them,” said Organizing Steward Mary Corrente. “They couldn’t believe we took time away from our everyday lives to come speak to them and see first-hand what they were dealing with at work.”
And indeed, the Organizing Stewards got a taste of what it’s like for the workers at the plant, as they faced extreme hostility from the Electrolux bosses themselves.
“While we were hand-billing the first-shift employees, Electrolux management came out to intimidate us … trying to say we were on their property illegally,” Organizing Steward Miguel Pagan recounted. “That negativity fueled my motivation to continue to help these workers.”
All that hard work paid off in the end. On Sept. 27, the Electrolux workers voted by more than 2-to-1 to join the IBEW, with 462 voting “Yes” and 193 voting “no.”
Shortly after the union election results were announced, IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson called Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell directly to thank him for the assistance and support that 1245 Organizing Stewards provided during the tough campaign.
For Corrente, a PG&E employee who had never worked on an organizing drive before, the Electrolux campaign was a truly eye-opening experience.
“I learned that not everyone is as fortunate as we are to have a union to represent them and fight for what’s right,” she said. “I will definitely continue to be involved in fighting for employees who don’t have a voice yet, but still want to be heard!”