Employees of the Cemex Brooksville, Fla., plant who voted late last month to unionize did so with improving safety as their top priority, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
“The plant there in Brooksville had some safety issues in the past, and they also had the feeling management wasn’t listening anymore,” said Jody Mauller, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers director of organizing.
Hernando County Fire Rescue responded to 11 calls for service at the plant since the beginning of 2017, according to public records. Three of those were for fires. In January, piles of ground-up rubber tires near a building caught on fire; last December, a leaking diesel line dripped a puddle of fuel that leaked through a hatch and onto a “cooler,” the heat from which ignited the fuel; and in May 2017, a downed electrical line caused a five-acre brush fire. Nobody was injured in any of the fires.
The eight other reports are less specific, and it’s unclear how severe those situations were as all lack thorough descriptions and tally zero injuries or casualties. It’s unclear how many incidents involved Cemex employees and whether any were workplace injuries.
Federal safety records and prior reporting show at least one fatal incident at the plant within the past few years. In 2014, a 51-year-old truck driver was crushed to death when a front-end loader pinned him against his truck’s cab.
About 60 percent of the 104 workers who voted, favored unionizing, Mauller said. Aside from safety issues, their concerns included scheduling problems, as well as wages and benefits.
Before the Oct. 26 vote, the Brooksville plant was the only non-union shop of Cemex’s 11 cement plants in the United States. Mauller said organizing there is a major accomplishment – especially in the South, where labor organization historically is “a tougher nut to crack” – and can contribute to greater negotiating strength on a larger scale.