By Lucy Williams, Editor & Publisher

Most union members were fired up Saturday as they took two votes, first rejecting a three-year contract and then supporting a vote to strike, both of which were backed by two-thirds of the workers present.

The votes brought the greatest majority of production at the Goodman Manufacturing Co., L.P., facility in Fayetteville to a halt. Approximately 1,100 workers are affected by the strike vote at the local plant, which has had union representation since it opened in 1968.

Even though production stopped for the most part, other operations continued earlier this week, company officials said. The facility has an estimated 300 non-union workers.

Late Monday morning Goodman officials said they were continuing discussions with union officials to achieve a negotiated settlement – “The company is working diligently and in good faith,” said Dave Swift, company president and CEO, “to secure an agreement that will satisfy the needs of our employees and our customers.”

Striking workers are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and Affiliates District Lodge 711 and Stone Bridge Lodge 2385, AFL-CIO.

A union spokesperson said late Monday morning that while no meetings had been scheduled, the union is looking to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“We’re hopeful that they will be reaching out to us soon,” said union spokesman Jerry Benson. “We’re ready to talk.”

Benson also expressed his appreciation to local agencies, including the Fayetteville Police Department and Tennessee Highway Patrol, saying, “Everyone has really worked with us and helped … I was born and raised in Fayetteville, and I’m proud of being treated the way we have in the community. Everyone in general has just been great.

“We also met yesterday with the city school system,” he added. “With a school just down the street from the plant, they are concerned about traffic along Wilson Parkway, and we are concerned, too … I think we have everything worked out where we are in good shape there.”

There are several sticking points which moved workers to reject the three-year contract offer during a closed-door meeting held in the gymnasium of Lincoln County High School Saturday morning. The meeting got underway at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t conclude until more than three and a half hours later.

Workers backing the contract’s rejection and the strike vote pointed to several factors contributing to their position. A change in the two-tier wage system allows the company to hire more people in at a lower wage, some said. Pay had also become stagnant, said others, adding that they believed a disproportionate amount of healthcare expense had been shifted to employees, reducing their amount of compensation. Another sticking point mentioned by some workers concerned a point system which they felt lowered standards, putting employees with good attendance on almost the same footing as employees with poor attendance.

But, perhaps the most commented on concern of workers related to respect in the workplace – “I think the biggest thing that brought it on was how they’ve treated their people over the course of the last three years,” said one worker, a comment that was reiterated by others.

Under the contract proposal, employees would have received a lump sum of $600 the first year of the contract, as well as a 10-cent an hour raise. The second year, there would be no lump sum payment, but employees would receive a 30-cent an hour pay raise. And in the third year, with no lump sum, workers would receive a 35-cent an hour raise.

Some of the employees opposing the rejection and the strike vote argued that they needed their jobs and expressed concern about the future of the local manufacturing facility if employees opted to strike.

“This is more than they offered us with the last contract three years ago,” said one worker, referring to the wage and benefit proposal package provided in the last contract agreement.

“No job is perfect … It’s just going to be hard to get by, especially if this is not resolved soon,” said another employee.

The last strike at the plant here occurred in 1978.

The acquisition of Goodman by Daikin Industries, Ltd., a global leader in commercial and industrial air conditioning, was finalized early last month. Company officials would not comment on the number of Goodman or Daikin unionized locations.

Daikin is a Fortune 1000 company with 2011 revenues in excess of ¥1218 billion and more than 44,000 employees worldwide, making it the number one commercial HVAC manufacturer in the world. Daikin is engaged primarily in the development, manufacture, sales and aftermarket support of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, refrigerants and other chemicals, as well as oil hydraulic products. DIL is headquartered in Osaka, Japan, has manufacturing operations in 18 countries and a sales presence in more than 90 countries.

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