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Union Workers Locked Out in Cincinnati

by Tom Burke |
September 1, 2005
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Woman holding "Locked out by NuTone" sign. Man holding Fight Back.
Locked out UAW workers picket NuTone parts plant in Cincinnati. (Fight Back! News)

Cincinnati, Ohio - 450 union workers found themselves out of work at NuTone in Cincinnati, on Sunday, July 17. The manufacturer, NuTone, paid to have letters delivered to United Auto Workers Local 2029 members’ homes announcing the lockout. Workers set up picket lines at three plant gates and held cardboard signs saying, “NuTone locked us OUT!”

Two union workers, Linda Cresie and Judson Barnett, stood vigil at the main gate and expressed worry that their jobs are gone. Ms. Cresie spoke, saying, “This was a big surprise. We have been working under the old contract since June 8 and we are given no reason by NuTone. There are a lot of single parents working here who need these jobs.” Both Cresie and Barnet set up punch press machines and are veteran workers, Cresie for 16 years. Mr. Barnett declared, “I’m afraid I need a good severance package and a new job.”

The workers at NuTone produced parts in Cincinnati that were shipped for assembly to Canada. The central vacuum, door chimes and ventilation fan producer, bought in 1998 by its main competitor Nortek and renamed Broan-NuTone, continued to generate big profits for the owners.

A husband and wife picketing the side gate said, “People depend on this paycheck and the job situation is bad in Cincinnati. The company wants to take away seniority and create a red mark system that disciplines the workers for life. Five marks, for being late or other problems and you are fired. There is no getting out from under it. This is really leaving us hanging!”

When asked what the union is doing, picketers say the UAW Local 2029 leadership is trying to contact NuTone’s lawyers, but the company claims the lawyers are out of the country on vacation. At the same time, NuTone is telling the media that they are hoping to meet with the UAW leaders.

The local union leaders posted pickets immediately. Small groups of workers take shifts standing at the gates in 90-plus degree heat every day. However, a rank-and-file union member frustrated with the situation said, “We have paid our dues to the UAW for years and years, yet we are out here with cardboard signs and markers? This is day four of the lockout. You think the UAW leadership could find a UAW sign for us to hold up and be proud of!”

The local UAW leaders have relief crews bringing water, food and news from the union office to lift the spirits of the locked-out members. The workers sense the situation is serious and are in the mood for action, willing to consider a march and rally, or if necessary, blocking scab replacement workers from taking their jobs. UAW Local 2029 is in a difficult situation, but the union members want to organize and fight back against the lockout.