The union drive began last summer, warehouse employee and union leader Rory Gatto says, and workers are organizing over wages, scheduling and calls for increased transparency and accountability from management.
Gatto, who has worked for the company for about five years, says he and fellow employees hope to unionize with the Teamsters Local 162, which represents warehouse workers. Teamsters is an international labor union with 1.4 million members.
Columbia has about 450 warehouse employees. At least one-third of them will need to sign on in support of unionizing in order for the National Labor Relation Board to sanction a union election.
Columbia Sportswear declined to comment.
In October, Gatto says, management hired a union-busting labor consulting firm, California-based Crossroads Group Labor Relations Consultants, to meet with employees. According to an agreement filed with the U.S Department of Labor, Columbia Sportswear paid the Crossroads Group $400.
In a recording of the meeting obtained by WW, Alonzo Plater, Columbia Sportwear’s vice president of global distribution, told warehouse workers: ” We do not need a union like the Teamsters here at Columbia. One of the things I love about our culture is that we’re so open and flexible. My personal struggle with a union is that employees who are represented by a union will lose their ability to talk directly to us and we’ll lose the opportunity to talk through things directly as a team.”
He continued: “The union will tell you that if they represent you, things will get better. In my experience, that’s not true.”
Gatto says workers do not plan to demand voluntary recognition. But on Dec. 4, union supporters did hand management a letter asking that they “stop threatening and surveilling workers and stop hiring union-busters.”