OK Foods denies allegation of interfering with a union vote

story by Ryan Saylor

Fort Smith-based OK Foods has denied accusations leveled by the National Labor Relations Board that it interfered with a union vote at its Heavener, Okla., food processing plant.

The accusations from the NLRB came in a letter from the agency's Amy Novara, a field examiner, who detailed a list of nearly 20 different accusations against the company and individuals from on-site supervisors to CEO Trent Goins.

Novara said the company attempted to use financial incentives to influence the May 1 vote on whether or not employees should join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1000, a vote that ultimately failed. She also said after March 20, OK Foods denied wage increases and retroactive pay to employees that had engaged in union activities.

Novara's letter continued, alleging the company threatened employees if they voted in favor of unionizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1000 during the May 1 vote.

"In or about February 2014, the Employer, but Supervisor Sparks, informed employees that they could not address wage increases and retroactive pay because of the Union and threatened employees with loss of wages if employees selected the union as their collective bargaining representative, in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act," she wrote.

Other similar allegations were made in her letter against OK Foods CEO Trent Goins, who she said "informed employees that wage increases and retroactive pay were being withheld because of union activity in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.” A settlement agreement attached to Novara’ letter "notifies employees or members that the Charged Party (OK Foods) will cease and desist from engaging in conduct proscribed by the Act," adding that the May 1 election would be thrown out and another election on unionization would be held.

According to a press release Tuesday (June 24), the company will not agree to any sort of settlement with the NLRB.

"OK Foods continues to deny any and all allegations and stands behind the May 1 vote," the release said.

The OK statement also claims that during the investigation, the NLRB "made no formal findings based on the union's allegations; conversely, it has dismissed some allegations and found that the union should present remaining allegations to an Administrative Law Judge.”

Goins also released a statement, saying that he was looking forward to challenging the allegations made by the UFCW.

"We look forward to presenting our case and refuting the union's remaining allegations," he said. "Our employees are important to OK Foods, and we will continue to stand behind them, determined to uphold their May 1st choice. As I stated in May, I continue looking forward to working with our employees to make OK Foods the best possible place; we are a team, and each member — and their voice — is valued and respected at OK Foods.”

UFCW's Anthony Elmo said the allegations detailed in Novara's letter were not union accusations, but were allegations directly from OK Foods workers.

"All of those are things that came from the employees themselves," he said. "Those workers brought those to the NLRB in sworn testimony. I think at the end of the day, for OK Foods to act like the union is making up the allegations is ridiculous. They came from employees and just put them in front of the (National Labor Relations) Board."