Union, Narricot end dispute

Published 10:03 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Narricot Industries employees have overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new three-year contract with the Carpenters Industrial Council, Local No. 2316. The agreement effectively ends nearly three years of labor strife at the Boykins plant. -- Charlie Passut | Tidewater News

BOYKINS—Workers at Narricot Industries have overwhelmingly endorsed a collective bargaining agreement between the company and a union, effectively ending nearly three years of labor strife at the plant.

Jason Weitzel, a representative for the Carpenters Industrial Council, said a three-year contractual agreement between Narricot and Local No. 2316 took effect on Sept. 1.

“I think that at the present moment, the workers certainly have gained a lot,” Weitzel said Thursday. “They have had improvements in their wages and benefits, and they also have the return of recognition of the union and representation to address any wrongs in the workplace, which they have not had for the last couple of years.”

Kris Potter, human resources manager for Narricot, also confirmed that an agreement had been forged with the union.

“We have signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Carpenters Industrial Council,” Potter said Wednesday. “It is a collective bargaining agreement for our employees, and they will now be represented by the CIC.”

Weitzel said the Narricot plant is not a union shop, which means the 212 employees who work there are not required to join the union. But he said workers voted 152-5 in favor of the collective bargaining agreement between the company and the union, and that union membership was growing.

“We anticipate a number of workers joining,” Weitzel said. “Since we completed the ratification of the contract and received recognition by the company, we have actually been approached by people (to join) before we even asked them. That’s always a good thing to hear.”

The agreement ends a labor dispute that began after Sept. 29, 2007, the date Narricot was accused of refusing to bargain with or recognize the union. A federal judge and the National Labor Relations Board both subsequently sided with the union, ruling that company managers acted unlawfully to oust the union from the plant.

Weitzel said that during the union’s absence, Narricot did many positive things for its employees. The company gave raises, offered more flexibility in the earning and using of vacation time, and provided educational assistance programs to help workers earn a diploma or a GED.

“They did some things that were positive and some things that were negative,” Weitzel said. “During the negotiations, we focused on trying to bring some additional positives to the shop. We were certainly not in the position, or had a desire, to take anything away from anyone.”

Weitzel said the collective bargaining agreement called for all employees to receive a 2.5-percent wage increase on Sept. 5, and an additional 2-percent raise in 18 months. Workers will also receive an additional paid holiday, raising the total number of paid holidays per year to 10.

The agreement also ends the legal battle between Narricot and the union.

“Before the agreement was ratified, we worked out an agreement that, assuming it was accepted by a majority of the workforce, (Narricot) would withdraw their appeal,” Weitzel said. “We have since sent a joint-communication to the NLRB saying that we have negotiated a new agreement, and in our opinion that new agreement resolves all of the charges.”

The company was in the process of appealing the rulings against it to the U.S. Supreme Court, after the high court had ruled in June that the NLRB didn’t have enough members when it decided hundreds of cases, including the Narricot case.

Narricot manufactures and dyes textile fabrics used to make vehicle seatbelts. The company’s factory in Boykins has been in operation since the early 1960s, and the union has been representing its production and maintenance employees since 1976. The union also represents employees at a satellite facility in Murfreesboro, N.C.