Union files charges with NLRB against Kent plant, an Esterline subsidiary

Management at Kent's Hytek Finishes has violated the rights of its workers under federal labor law as they try to negotiate their first Machinists Union contract, the union alleges.

Machinists Union District Lodge 751 has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Esterline Corp. subsidiary.

"We waited until the very last second, hoping to get a contract without involving the NLRB," said Kevin Cummings, a Machinists Union Grand Lodge representative who is leading the negotiating team for the union. "Unfortunately, the company is more interested in stalling."

The union alleges that Hytek management has coerced and discriminated against union activists, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

In addition, the union claims that Hytek managers have violated the law by making unilateral changes in workplace policies, practices, procedures and working conditions while negotiations have been underway. Such moves also are against the National Labor Relations Act, the union says.

Hytek employs about 170 people at its plant in Kent. The workers do metal processing – such as chrome and nickel plating – for aerospace manufacturers including Boeing, Lockheed and Bell Helicopters.

The work involves handling hundreds of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals and materials, and the union has made worker safety a major issue in the negotiations.

The workers voted to join Machinists District 751 by a more-than 2-to-1 margin in August. Talks on a first contract began in October. Some 99 percent of workers voting in December approved a strike sanction measure, indicating they are united behind their union bargaining team.

The union reports that while negotiations continue with managers of the Esterline subsidiary, the talks have bogged down.

That wasn't the case a few weeks ago, Cummings said.

On Feb. 10, the Machinists Union submitted a proposal that would have streamlined Hytek's complicated employee classification system and standardized the pay structure.

That proposal seemed to have created a breakthrough, Cummings said. Hytek's negotiating team committed to bring back a counterproposal at the next bargaining session, and hinted that they thought a deal was near.

Instead, the Esterline subsidiary brought in a second team of lawyers – one to negotiate the contract and the other to address the NLRB charges. Cummings said.

"We have bent over backwards to understand their business needs, but Hytek has not come to the bargaining table with the same spirit," Cumming said.

Instead, Hytek negotiators are complaining about the cost of negotiations, Cummings said. "I suggested they fire the second group, let the NLRB determine the merit of the charges, then use the money they saved to bring a better contract."

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