More than 140 employees, their families and the community at large will soon be adversely impacted if a strike by the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 343C against RJF International Corporation's Marietta plant continues.
The union declared a strike on Dec. 23, as the plant prepared to begin its annual shutdown the week of Dec. 24 to 28.
"Language in the contract (under negotiation) that has to do with taking seniority rights away and with management rights" are the key reasons for a decision to strike, according to Ted DeLoach, international representative for Akron-based ICWUC.
No matter the stated reasons, cost reductions are the bottom line for RJF's management, said Terry Tamburini, executive director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority.
"I've heard those same things, too, about seniority," Tamburini said. "You can call it whatever you want, but basically the deal is to reduce costs to try to be competitive."
An attorney for RJF International declined to comment Friday.
RJF's plant, just outside Marietta in Oak Grove, makes wall covering and various grades of rubber matting.
The nation's economic downturn of 2007 to the present "has greatly impacted the wall covering industry in a negative way," said Tamburini.
Reacting to changing market demand, RJF shifted some production toward rubber matting, a product in demand by the Defense Department and in school buses, Tamburini noted.
"They've reacted well," he added.
Another reaction companies typically make to remain competitive in a tough market is cost cutting.
"That's when you run into conflict with the labor force," Tamburini said.
The current five-year contract between RJF and ICWUC Local 343C will expire Sunday, DeLoach reported.
Present negotiations are for another five-year contract, he added.
At least one vote was made by local members of ICWUC Local 343C in the past five days, according to Tamburini.
"What I hear is that they're voting again on Sunday," said Tamburini.
DeLoach confirmed the Sunday vote, but denied any conflicts between the two negotiating parties.
"Sure, we have disagreements but we're trying to get this worked out," he said.
"We've worked a lot of hours-Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and we're still working," he added.
Washington County Commissioner Steve Weber said he hopes to see a resolution to the strike between RJF and ICWUC.
"I think it'd be better for everybody if they'd come to some kind of agreement," he said.
What's more, the county's economy will suffer as RJF employees receive no company paychecks during a strike.
"It always hurts, as far as the money people spend. It's just a vicious cycle when (a strike) takes place," Weber said.
RJF, the former fabricated polymers division of B.F. Goodrich, is a manufacturer of decorative, industrial, interior, transit and office products. The firm is headquartered in Fairlawn, Oh.