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FIELDCREST CANNON WORKERS VOTE TO UNIONIZE PLANTS.

KANNAPOLIS, N.C.-After a 25-year battle to organize, textile workers in six Fieldcrest Cannon plants in North Carolina have voted in favor of union representation.

Of the 4,657 workers who cast ballots from the six Fieldcrest Cannon facilities, 2,270 voted for joining the union and 2,102 voted against membership. Both sides challenged about 285 votes, but officials said the vote would stand for the immediate future.

Voting began on Tuesday, June 22, and ended the following night. It was the first election since a court-ordered vote in 1997, which the union lost by a vote of 2,563 to 2,194.

Chuck Hansen, chairman and chief executive of Pillowtex, the parent company of Fieldcrest Cannon, said that the Fieldcrest Cannon employees' vote to join the Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) will not cause any immediate changes. "I don't think it will change our company at all," Hansen stated. "Our job is to manufacture home textile products and that won't change."

Asked about job security in the face of enhanced automation in plant operations (one concern voiced by an employee), Hansen stated, "With all the modernization carried out in Fieldcrest Cannon plants, no one has lost a job. Job security is really not an issue. And the greatest job for all of us -- management and labor -- is to be competitive in the world market."

Industry speculation is that if union demands were to drive up manufacturing costs, it would weaken the competitive position of textile manufacturers in the U.S.

Issues of hourly wages and benefits will be addressed when negotiations with UNITE actually occur, Hansen said. As for analyzing the contested votes, "There is a whole set of legal hurdles in place to go through," Hansen said. "We can't speculate as to how long it will take."

A final decision should be reached around late October/early November, said Patricia Timmins, regional attorney for the Winston Salem, N.C., branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Until then, UNITE will represent 9,000 Pillowtex employees working in 15 facilities in the United States and Canada. (Prior to the vote, UNITE represented 4,000 Pillowtex employees, about 35 percent of the company's production workers.)

Companies including WestPoint Stevens and Burlington House offered no comment regarding the unionization. "We believe we have good, strong relations with our associates and don't believe it will be a problem for us," said a spokesperson of Springs, which has a small number of people represented by UNITE in its recently acquired Rock Hill, N.C., plant.
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Comment:FIELDCREST CANNON WORKERS VOTE TO UNIONIZE PLANTS.
Author:Rothstein, Shari Lynn
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 28, 1999
Words:428
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