OK Foods union vote fails, objection to be filed

story by Ryan Saylor

A union vote at an OK Foods processing facility in Heavener, Okla., failed by a narrow margin Thursday (May 1), with workers voting 26-29 on a question of whether to unionize the facility.

With the vote failing, officials with Fort Smith-based OK Foods hailed it as a victory.

"OK Foods, Inc. is thrilled to announce that the maintenance and refrigeration employees at our Heavener, Oklahoma processing facility have decided against the need to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducted election," the company said in a press release "The company is pleased by the outcome of the vote, and does not believe its employees need to pay a union a lot of money nor risk the possibility of strikes or other union complications to have a good job at OK Foods."

But Anthony Elmo of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1000 said the vote was not conducted according to the National Labor Relations Act, accusing OK Foods leadership of tampering with the election, which was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

"We feel like they subverted the vote as much as possible," he said, adding that the union is "preparing charges and objections to the election."

Elmo made as of yet unsubstantiated claims that OK Foods CEO Trent Goins had threatened workers with firing if they were to ever go on strike and had also threatened to lock employees out of the building if a strike were to ever occur.

He also said the company did "little silly things" that were meant to coerce employees into thinking they did not need union representation. Among the claims made by Elmo were actions as simple as painting the break room.

Elmo also claimed that Goins had met with employees one by one up to an hour before the vote Thursday in an attempt to sway their votes, though the claim and others have not been substantiated and a call to OK Foods for comment on this story had not been returned as of publication.

"The company is not allowed to do that within 24 hours of the vote," Elmo said.

In a prepared statement, Goins said he believed no one at the facility would regret the failed vote for a union.

“I am looking forward to continue working with our employees to make OK Foods the best possible place for everyone; I also encourage all employees to come together and work as a team. We sincerely believe no employee will ever regret the decision to defeat the union and wish to thank every team member for their support.”

Elmo said the union's objection to the vote would be filed either Friday (May 2) at close of business or Monday (May 5), adding that it was unknown when a decision on a possible re-vote could be handed down by the NLRB.

"The NLRB always takes a couple of weeks, at the least. But we're going to help employees speak with them directly, relay their testimony and tell the truth about what influenced their vote."