On Thursday, May 25, two union organizers, four Donaldson employees’ wives and one worker’s daughter staged an informational eight-hour picket in front of the business on U.S. Highway 93 north of Hamilton.
Donaldson’s CEO, Charles Donaldson, has refused to recognize the call for a union election. He was given 24 union authorization cards a month ago. Since then, two workers have rescinded their authorization but the other 22 employees are still hoping to create a union at the Bitterroot concrete and gravel company.
Sandy Curriero, an organizer for the International Union of Operating Engineers, was on the picket line Thursday. Curriero has been helping the Donaldson employees with their plans to unionize since last January.
According to Terry Wolfe, one of the wives on the Thursday picket line, there was a different show of support for Donaldson on Friday afternoon. The office staff, who are not part of the prospective bargaining unit, staged their own picket, Wolfe says. Several employees walked up and down in front of the main gate for about an hour, carrying signs that said “Honk if you support Donaldson’s.”
“They have a right to do that, of course,” Wolfe says. “But they were only out there for about an hour after work. We ate dust for more than eight hours the day before, and we got wonderful support.”
Wolfe, her daughter, and the other wives, were there for two reasons, she says. They wanted to support their husbands and they also wanted the public to be aware of the union struggle.
“We keep hearing that the business has been sold out from under us,” Wolfe says. “We don’t think that’s possible because of the ESOP [Employee Stock Option Plan], but we can’t get any answers.”
The employees are part owners of the business through an ESOP that was created five years ago. Among their complaints is that they have no up-to-date information about the ESOP. The employees have only had two meetings about their stock option plan, one when it was formed and one after they presented the union cards. Many of the men sent written requests for specific information on the plan. In reply, they all received the same letter from Donaldson, which stated he was not the ESOP administrator. The letter did not answer any of the men’s questions, they said. The pro-union employees have retained an attorney and will meet with him this week, Wolfe said.
A National Labor Relations Board investigator was in Hamilton last week investigating the more than two dozen complaints against the company. A report from the NLRB concerning the situation at Donaldson’s Ready-Mix is expected this week.