DECATUR — The National Labor Relations Board found Archer Daniels Midland Co. guilty of violating federal labor laws in relation to employees at its bioproducts plant in Decatur considering joining a union.
Maintenance employees at the plant had voted 33-28 in January 2015 against joining the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents more than 70,000 members at food manufacturing companies, including 38 ADM facilities.
Administrative Law Judge Melissa M. Olivero concluded after a July hearing in Peoria that ADM had interrogated and threatened its employees, violating their right to form, join or assist a union. She found the misconduct sufficient to set aside the results of the election and ordered a second election as part of issuing a 33-page decision.
“Now that the board set aside the 2015 election results and issued a cease and desist order against ADM, we're hopeful employees will be able to freely and fairly vote to become members of the BCTGM,” John Price, director of organization for the BCTGM International Union, said Thursday.
The 2015 vote of 62 maintenance workers with 61 ballots cast occurred after a December 2013 tie vote, Price said.
Most of the workers want to become union members, said Nick Mitchell, a lead maintenance employee at the plant.
“Conditions haven't changed, and we're prepared to win a fair election and become members of the BCTGM,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the next election could be scheduled within the next month. The main issues as to why the employees are interested in joining a union include work conditions and scheduling, Mitchell said.
BCTGM Local 103G filed objections Jan. 28, 2015, regarding the conduct of the election, in addition to several unfair labor practice charges.
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Maintenance department supervisors were accused of interrogating employees about union activities, providing the impression of surveillance and threatening employees with unspecified reprisals for supporting the union. Among other things, the supervisors changed the location of employee breaks, which led to employee concerns about the surveillance of union activities.
Employees also objected to being denied personal holidays because of their union activities.
Olivero noted employees have a right to form, join or assist a union. They can choose representatives to bargain on their behalf along with acting together with other employees for their benefit and protection.
Employees have the right to choose not to engage in the protected activities. Olivero ordered ADM to post the information about employee rights in the plant.
The conduct and unfair labor practices engaged in by the employer tended to interfere with the free and fair choice of voting unit employees, Olivero wrote in the decision.
The National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., adopted Olivero's findings about the case on Feb. 23 after ADM did not appeal the decision, although the company said it did not engage in any unfair labor practice.
“ADM is committed to promoting a safe work environment, with fair treatment and competitive wages and benefits for our employees,” spokeswoman Jackie Anderson said. “We continue to believe that we did not engage in any unfair labor practice nor did we interfere with the organizing rights of our employees.”
Olivero wrote that ADM should restore the original location for the employee breaks and grant personal holidays that were denied in retaliation for union activities.
Her further recommendations included that ADM should not interrogate employees or threaten unspecified reprisals due to their union activities.