SMART to Johnson Controls: Essential Workers Are Sick of the Company Response to COVID-19

SMART members in more than a dozen Johnson Controls Inc. (NYSE:JCI) manufacturing plants across the country are demanding a better response to the pandemic from JCI, including basic protections like paid sick leave, plant sanitation, personal protective equipment and hazard pay.

Essential workers at JCI in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, and California worry that the company response to COVID-19 could lead to outbreaks and cause shut-downs. As of May 6th, twenty-seven (27) cases of COVID-19 have been reported by either workers or management in five (5) plants. The Tarboro, NC plant had to temporarily shut down. Some workers have stayed home without pay or unemployment.

"Having two kids with medical issues I risk bringing this home to them. I don't feel it's too much to ask for financial supplement in this crisis."
– Christy Best, SMART member at JCI in Parsons, KS

"Four cases of COVID-19 have already arisen in this plant."
– Jose Herrera, Shop Steward at JCI in Mira Loma, CA (translated from Spanish)

Twenty-nine (29) SMART Shop Stewards signed a letter to their coworkers launching the safety petition with the following message:

"We can’t afford for JCI to wait another day before they take company-wide action. It is more important than ever that we stand together."

On Monday, 130 members of SMART Local 2 in Albany, MO walked out over a punitive attendance policy and mandatory overtime at the JCI plant. They voted management’s proposal down 98-32 on May 15. These issues have become health and safety concerns since COVID-19:

"If you have a fever or headaches and you leave work or don’t come in, you have to test positive for COVID-19 or will be assessed points."
– Anthony Fletchall, SMART Bargaining team member at JCI in Albany, MO

JCI workers in Albany are allowed three (3) unpaid personal days per year, and management recently rejected SMART’s bargaining proposal, partly, for not providing one (1) additional unpaid day. SMART Local 2 members produce rooftop units and other custom solutions under the brands York, Tempmaster, Fraser-Johnston, Champion, Coleman and Luxaire.

Existing attendance policies provide workers in Lexington, KY and Mira Loma, CA up to five sick days per year. Workers in Parsons, KS get sixteen (16) hours paid sick leave per year, and in Huntsville, AL they get one (1) paid sick day per year. Workers in Ponca City, OK, Tarboro, NC, and El Paso, TX have no sick leave at all. In Huntsville, AL, Albany, MO, Ponca City, OK, Parsons, KS, and Lexington, KY the company is not providing any additional sick leave for COVID-19 quarantines, even with a doctor recommended quarantine or when management sends people home due to exposure.

CEO George Oliver told investors on the May 1, 2020 earnings call that protecting employees "has always been a top priority" and says the company formed a "crisis command team" led by the Employee Health & Safety division to "ensure our factories… could operate safely." SMART representatives requested a dialogue on COVID-19 safety issues weeks ago but corporate was unwilling to engage on these issues.

SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers represents approximately 1,900 JCI workers in 11 American states, as well as over 100,000 skilled craftpersons in the HVAC and sheet metal trades who install and service union-label products. We are one of North America’s most dynamic and diverse unions with 203,000 members. Our members ensure the quality of the air we breathe, promote energy efficiency, produce and provide the vital services that move products to market and passengers to their destinations.

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Paul Pimentel (202) 662-0812
Meredith Schafer (202) 662-0883