Pro-union rally held at Urbana plant

Pro-union rally held at Urbana plant

URBANA — About 90 people, many of them waving signs, took part in a rally outside the Guardian West facility in Urbana on Tuesday evening to support about 320 Flex-N-Gate workers at the plant who are seeking to unionize with the United Auto Workers.

"I support the rights of the employees to unionize," said Aaron Ammons, vice president of the Service Employees International Union Local 119. "Workers should have the right to bargain over fair wages and a secure at-work environment. Union jobs create living wages and opportunities for people to have more healthy lifestyles."

The workers in Urbana are among about 1,500 employees hoping to unionize at Flex-N-Gate plants in three states.

The employees allege the company has not provided workers with enough information or training about hazardous chemicals with which they work and allege the company has not provided them with adequate protective gear.

None of the people taking part in Tuesday's rally appeared to be Flex-N-Gate employees.

"This was a rally largely organized by community organizations in town," said Chris Schwartz, strategic research coordinator for the UAW. "The opportunity for the Flex-N-Gate workers to speak out was at an earlier event held on Saturday."


Meanwhile, Flex-N-Gate said it stood by its statement from Saturday in which it said, "Guardian West, like all FNG facilities, matches or surpasses all environmental and OSHA requirements."

On Tuesday, the company released a letter from OSHA's Peoria area office that gave results from industrial hygiene samplings conducted Dec. 15, Jan. 28 and Feb. 9 at Guardian West.

The letter listed permissible exposure limits for five contaminants — hexavalent chromium, chromic acid/chromates, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid and nickel — and the amounts of them found in nine employee samplings.

In each case, the amount found was below the permissible exposure limit, according to the letter.

In the letter, OSHA asked Guardian West to notify its employees of the results of air samplings at the plant.

The OSHA letter also noted that companies are required to inform employees exposed to toxic or harmful substances of exposure records and the rights of employees to access those records.

Employees of Guardian West filed complaints in December with the Peoria area office of OSHA, asking for more information and training in how to deal with chemicals.

Barry Salerno, acting area director for that office, said the agency has up to six months to investigate the complaints and should wrap up its investigation by June. He said he could not comment on the complaints until the investigation is complete.


David Gill, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the new 13th District seat in the U.S. House, attended, handing out campaign cards.

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on March 14, 2012 at 12:03 am
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What does the Service Workers Union have to do with skilled labor? Nah, nevermind. N-G was looking for someone to quote, relevance notwithstanding.


Hey, it sure was nice to have Flex-n-Gate here for a while.  I guess they'll move south now. 

jthartke wrote on March 14, 2012 at 10:03 am

Yeah, Rob, you would know how little skill is involved in sevice work, like say bartending. 

And its clear that you don't undestand the point of Solidarity in union organization.

And I suppose you would be of the opinion that, no matter how low standards sink, if you can find somplace with cheaper, more abusable labor, the company should go there.  At what point do you think these people have the right to stand up for themselves?  Should we let our labor standards in Illinois sink below those of Alabama, or Mexico, or Bangladesh?

Khan has the money to buy a losing footbal team, but no money to work with the concerns of his employees, eh?

ronaldo wrote on March 14, 2012 at 11:03 am

Specifically, how are his employees being mistreated?

ronaldo wrote on March 15, 2012 at 9:03 am

Yeah, didn't think so......