8/12/08

Workers use secret-ballot to decertify union

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The customer service and warehouse workers at Comcast Corp.'s Merrillville's office voted Wednesday to decertify from the IBEW union.

"We respect the choice made by these employees and hope the IBEW Local 21 also respects that choice," said Comcast spokesman Rich Ruggiero. "We look forward to our team of employees in Merrillville continuing to provide great service to our customers in Northwest Indiana."

Jerry Rankins, business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 21, said 24 of the 25 eligible workers voted, with 15 voting to decertify and nine voting to remain with the union.

Rankins said the decertification is the result of disparity of wages that Comcast pays its union and non-union workers. He also said the IBEW may file a challenge to the election with the National Labor Relations Board because of perceived irregularities to the behavior of Comcast in respect to election.

The company pays area non-union workers between $2 and $10 per hour more than those in the union doing the same jobs, Rankins said.

"It's part of Comcast's national strategy to get rid of unions," he said. "They (Comcast workers) hope to get a raise in pay now that they're non-union. With the price of gas, they are all facing economic struggles. They wanted to stay union, but their financial circumstances dictated they had to make a tough decision."

Ruggiero said the company has never said that the employees would get more money if they were non-union.

"These employees made their choice in a free and fair, secret-ballot election," he said.

Four of eight workers laid off from the Merrillville location in October also voted Wednesday. Their votes were challenged and not counted. Many of them had worked for Comcast and its predecessors for more than 20 years, Rankins said.

The layoffs prompted the union to file a grievance against the company that is scheduled for arbitration in November.

(nwitimes.com)

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