According to the London Free Press, despite a personal appeal by CAW’s president Buzz Hargrove, workers at the plant voted against union representation on Thursday by a vote of 923 to 533. Because more than 60 percent of the employees at the plant had signed union cards, CAW organizers were caught off-guard by the defeat.
"It was a big surprise to everybody," Paul Forder, CAW spokesperson, told the paper. "We didn't see this coming."
Both Hargrove and Sterling management made a direct pitch to workers on Wednesday.
Forder said some of the workers might have been intimidated by threats by managers who said the plant could be moved to the U.S. or Mexico.
Freightliner officials said they are pleased with the overall outcome of the election and denied Forder's claims of intimidation.
"The CAW has blatantly misrepresented our discussions with our employees," said Jim Hebe, president and CEO of Freightliner. "Obviously the CAW is looking for any reason possible to justify the outcome of the election."
In August, Sterling announced 700 jobs would be cut on Dec. 4. The move jumpstarted the organizing drive at the plant, which employs about 1,800.
This is the second time in four years that a petition for certification has been filed by the CAW to represent Sterling employees. Another organizing vote was held in the plant in 1996, which resulted in more than 70 percent of the workforce rejecting the CAW.
According to the Free Press, Forder said the CAW will not give up.