Photo By: 
Phil Cohen

NLRB Stops Mohawk's Union Busting

At a rug plant in North Carolina, the NLRB finds dozens of violations and orders company to stop undermining the union

Brian Young's picture
May 01, 2018

The 200 members of Workers United at Karastan have beat back a decertification attempt that sought to bust their 79-year-old union.

Beginning in September, Karastan’s parent company Mohawk sent Human Resources executives to the company’s only union plant in Eden, North Carolina. The plant, which makes high-end rugs as well as rugs for airplanes, have been organized for the last 79 years, not a small feat in the anti-union state of North Carolina. The HR executives began targeting 7 low-level employees to begin spreading the decertification campaign. Management began exploiting the employee's fears and insecurities while promising them that if the union was gone and layoffs came they would be protected since the company would then be allowed to decide who to fire. Finally, after taking this select group of employees on a field trip to a non-union plant, the decertification petition was filed. Over the next few weeks, management bullied employees into signing onto the campaign, barely getting the minimum number of signatures needed.

Workers United decided that they would not take this sitting down and began to fight. They brought in Special Projects Coordinator Phil Cohen to assess the situation and lead the fight against the company. Cohen said that from early on it became quite clear that management had created a very detailed plan to bust the union. Workers United began filing unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Once the NLRB investigation began, the board began to find rampant violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In their final report, the NLRB found that 3 ranking members of management had committed 45 separate violations that included management directly soliciting signatures, making threats and coercing employees to get them to sign, illegal interrogation and surveillance of employees, making illegal promises to employees, and allowing several anti-union employees free reign of the plant during work hours to collect signatures.

"Mohawk engaged in an illegal conspiracy to undermine the union and strip American workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act," said Cohen. "Management underestimated the intelligence and character of their employees. Carloads of workers found the courage to come forward and give affidavits to the NLRB, exposing the scheme."

According to Cohen, who has written a book, The Jackson Project, on his work fighting for unions, usually the NLRB gives you 70-80% of what you are asking for, but in this case, the NLRB began finding and meeting with their own witnesses. In the end, Cohen described the decision as getting “120% of what we asked for.”

The National Right to Work Committee, which has been looking for test cases to weaken unions and labor laws in the era of Trump, has vowed to appeal the ruling.

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