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Colo Trane workers to vote on union
Date 18/10/26/12:31
Trane workers to vote on union

AN estimated 300 production and maintenance workers at the Trane assembly plant are set to vote next week on whether to join a labor union.

The factory, located at the Airport Industrial Park, produces large air conditioners for schools, office buildings and industrial sites. It also operates an on-site product testing center. A year ago, the plant hosted a special celebration marking its 30th anniversary in Pueblo.

The union vote is scheduled for next Friday.

If approved, the workers would affiliate with the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 7 union.

Local 7 represents represents 22,000 workers in Colorado and Wyoming in supermarkets, packing houses, food processing plants, barbers and cosmetologists and health care facilities, according to its website.

In response to a media inquiry, Trane's parent company, Ingersoll Rand, issued a statement Thursday calling for workers to vote against the proposal.

"While Ingersoll Rand respects the rights of its employees to choose to be represented, or not, we do not believe paid union representation is necessary or in the best interests of our employees and their families.

"We strongly believe that when our employees have all of the information the law allows us to convey, they will agree. We remain committed to creating a supportive environment for our employees and continuing to serve our customers," the company said in the statement.

Workers who support joining the union allege a range of issues they want addressed through collective bargaining, including excessive overtime demands, disparate pay levels and other wage concerns and a reduction in benefits such as matching 401(k) contributions.

"I wish Ingersoll Rand and other large corporations would just treat their workers better. Quit trying to squeeze them for every last little bit. It's not just Ingersoll Rand. It seems like corporate America is on that trend and it's not good for workers at all," Thurman Spurlock, a welder of 19 years, said Thursday of the group's motivation.

Bea Salazar, a welder for more than 20 years at Trane, said she also views the group's efforts as a way to help boost wages and benefits for workers at other Pueblo manufacturers, particularly at the industrial park, which is "what they go off to decide the wages we're supposed to be competitive with." If anybody is down low, "everybody is down low," Salazar said.

The National Labor Relations board informed Trane on Oct. 5 that petitioners gathered enough worker signatures to call for the election.

According to the election notice issued by NLRB, the proposed bargaining unit would cover maintenance, production and safety workers, although the inclusion of safety workers may face a legal challenge. Excluded are quality control, temporary, contract, office, managerial and professional employees, including engineers and security guards.

Nationally, Ingersoll Rand and its Trane subsidiary operate non-union and union factories. In August, Trane and union workers at the company's La Cross, Wis., plant reached agreement on a new four-year contract, according to media reports.

At the same time, Trane is in the midst of consolidating some of its U.S. factories. Earlier this month, it announced it will close a 600-worker heating, ventilation and air conditioning plant in Kentucky to consolidate operations at its expanding campus in Columbia, S.C., according to media reports.

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