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Strikers Accuse Spa Maker of Violating Labor Laws


POMONA — More than 200 employees of a Pomona spa manufacturer continued their strike last week, accusing the company of violating labor laws in its effort to thwart their union organizing drive.

California Acrylic Industries, also known as Cal-Spas, has hired about 180 workers since the walkout began June 18. Before the strike Cal-Spas employed about 530 workers at its Pomona production plant, a company attorney said.

Though company officials and leaders of the United Electrical Workers union disagree on the number of employees who remain on strike, at least 200 have walked off the job and most have not returned to work.

The company says 203 workers have walked out, while officials with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America say the number is close to 300.

Workers and union representatives said trouble at Cal-Spas began two weeks ago, shortly before union representatives and company officials were to meet with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials to discuss the terms of a union election at the plant.

Strikers and union officials allege that company officials tried to intimidate employees once it was clear a union vote was imminent. Workers say the union is needed to improve working conditions and benefits, and to increase wages.

Union officials say the pay scale now ranges from the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour to $6.50. Cal-Spas officials say some of the workers on strike earn up to $14.

In a complaint filed with the NRLB, the union alleges Cal-Spas officials harassed and fired an employee because of his pro-union activities, spied on pro-union workers and tampered with employees' time cards.

An attorney for Cal-Spas said company officials deny allegations of unfair labor practices, which the union filed more than a week ago with the NLRB. Officials at Cal-Spas, also known as California Acrylic Industries, referred all questions to their attorneys.

Cal-Spas, one of the nation's largest spa builders, filed several complaints of its own with the NLRB against the union. Among other things, the company alleges some employees have been threatened by union representatives.

NLRB officials are investigating charges filed by both sides. Striking Cal-Spas workers will win their jobs back, with back pay, if investigators find merit in their charges of unfair labor practices, officials said. If those charges are not substantiated the strikers risk permanent replacement.

The strike marks the second time this year that Cal-Spas has been at the center of controversy.

In May, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded a male Cal-Spas employee $1 million in a sexual harassment suit against his female boss, chief financial officer Maria Martinez. Sabino Gutierrez, 33, alleged Martinez began pressuring him to have sex shortly after he started working at Cal-Spas in 1986. He resigned in 1988.

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