NEW YORK--It could be a taste of things to come. That's what union leaders are saying about the first joint organizing effort by ILGWU and ACTWU staffers, a move that resulted in a pro-union vote this month by workers at Columbia Textile Services, a large dyeing and finishing operation in Paterson, N.J. The ILGWU and ACTWU are expected to merge at the end of the month to form UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees. That expectation allowed them to get together in an attempt to unionize the plant, which employs more than 175 workers. Many other factories in the area have been organized by the ACTWU. "There are real synergies in bringing together two different styles of organizing," said Jeff Hermanson, national organizing director for the ILGWU. "The ACTWU has, in recent years, emphasized a blitz approach, involving a quick campaign aimed at larger companies. Then, they usually petition the National Labor Relations Board for a supervised election." In contrast, Hermanson said the ILGWU has a "longer, base-building style of recruiting," which might include a work stoppage to force a vote to unionize if management is resistant. In the case of Columbia Textiles, the ACTWU petitioned the NLRB, while ILGWU staffers helped canvass workers by conducting home visits, staging large recruitment meetings and distributing leaflets at the plant. The effort resulted in a vote of 118 to 24 in favor of union representation. "This a great example of the kind of success we'll have when our two unions merge," said John Hudson, international vice president of the ACTWU.
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