R.S. Owens & Co. President Responds to Union Accusations
Scott Siegel, president of R.S. Owens & Company, Chicago, spoke with Promo Marketing on Friday regarding last week's story about a contract dispute between the company and the Chicago Teamsters union. In a phone conversation, Siegel explained that the union's claims, published in a press release, are exaggerated and intended to increase pressure on the awards manufacturer.
"We've been trying to work things out with them, we've been bargaining in good faith, and then the union management decided to put out a press release with many exaggerations and misinformation," Siegel said. "We're still hopeful to reach a deal with the union. ... Our employees do great work and we're hoping to be able to reach an accord with them."
The union's three-year contract recently expired, and in its press release, the Chicago Teamsters claimed that R.S. Owens & Co. "denied wage increases to its workers from 2007-2011, and is proposing wage freezes for the next three years," a claim Siegel said is misleading.
"In the three-year contract that just expired, they had an opportunity in the second year and in the third year to re-open the contract," he explained. "There was a 90-day window each year to reopen the contract and re-negotiate pay increases, and they never did."
R.S. Owens & Co. manufacturers the statuettes for the Oscars and Emmys in the U.S. using union workers. However, most of the major television awards are not made by union labor but by factories in China due to the higher costs associated with unionized products. Higher wages could lead to higher product costs, which in turn could push more organizations to purchase from overseas, ultimately resulting in less work for union members. Siegel suggested that if unions were to put pressure on organizations to buy American, rather than on the manufacturers, then increased sales could support higher wages. As is, he said he was unfamiliar with any union efforts to persuade organizations to buy American-made awards.
"We're the only unionized awards company left in the United States, and we feel it's unfortunate that union management has never lifted a finger to help us as one entertainment award after another has moved to China," he said.
The teamsters' press release coincided with production of the Oscar statuettes, during a week when a Hollywood film crew was at the R.S. Owens & Co. factory to shoot footage for the ceremony. Although a union representative hinted at the possibility of a strike to Huffington Post, Siegel said there would be no delays in production, neither for the Academy Awards nor for distributors.
"I'm happy to say that one of the things that we've been working diligently on for the past year was building inventory. We are well stocked," he said. "I don't expect any work stoppage."
Siegel said there was progress in two meetings with union representatives last week, and that both parties agreed to federal mediation to settle the dispute. Mediation began on Friday.
For more information, visit R.S. Owens & Company's website.