Labor union movement nears signature count goal

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A labor union movement is one step closer to becoming a reality for one of the Port of Brownsville’s largest tenants. Members from the Southwest Pipe Trades Association continue to collect signatures in hopes of forming a union at Keppel AmFELS.

This week the Southwest Pipe Trades Association say they’re looking to represent local workers. Specifically, in negotiating better working conditions, higher wages, a retirement plan, among other benefits.

Chad Tomlin, Southwest Pipe Trade, lead organizer, “I believe in the middle class, I believe in the working guy, and there is a lot of talent that goes into building these ships. There’s the welders and the pipe fitters, the electricians, Sheet metal workers and I think that they’re underpaid.

Jason Medina, Southwest Pipe Trade, recruiter, “They’re out here signing these authorization cards, and once we move from there we have a sufficient number of cards signed, then we’ll petition for a vote.

It’s part of an ongoing process to start a labor union. They claim they first must collect signatures of approximately 30 percent of employees to request a vote to start a union. Right now, the team tells me they’re close with over 200 of their 250 goal.

“We did a little bit or research ourselves and found that Keppel in Singapore is Union. Simon Lee is the president of the company and he boasts how unions meet and exceed their expectations in building ships in Singapore. My question is to these guys, why can’t there be a union here?” adds Tomlin.

Leonard Aguilar, Southwest Pipe Trade Association, “Workers need to be treated right. We need to take care of the contractors and the employers as well. And it’s just something where you go to work at the beginning of the day you put in a solid 8 hour day, a 10 hour day, and you go home safe at the end of the day.”

With more signatures, the group is optimistic that they’ll be able to represent local employees. Union supporters claim they will continue to collect the necessary signatures for as long as necessary in order to begin the next step.

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