Ray-Ban Luxottica manufacturer accused of anti-union behavior at US plant in Georgia

MILAN, July 15 (Reuters) – U.S. and international unions have accused Ray-Ban maker Luxottica, the Italian arm of eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica (ESLX.PA), of violating workers’ right to organize in an American plant in Georgia and have asked the Italian, French and American governments to mediate.

In a statement sent to Reuters, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), together with the AFL-CIO and two other worker groups, alleged that managers at the Luxottica factory in McDonough, near Atlanta, in Georgia, had unleashed an “aggressive and fear-inducing attitude” to discourage its 2,000 employees from unionizing.

Unions on Thursday filed a lawsuit under guidelines for multinational companies set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which say multinational companies should not interfere with workers’ rights to organize.

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The case is an example of unorganized U.S. factory and warehouse workers seeking intervention from international labor authorities in their attempt to gain union representation, instead of turning to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) . Last year, a group of international unions complained about McDonald’s (MCD.N) to the OECD, saying the fast food chain was not adequately addressing issues of sexual harassment.

“The NLRB is really broken,” Tim Dubnau, deputy organization director at CWA, told Reuters. “We know exactly what’s going to happen. We go to the NLRB, the company stalls and then spends 80 days bullying people, acting like thugs at work, forcing people to listen to anti-union nonsense.”

The NLRB said its regional staff across the country are committed to ensuring every case is fully investigated. Reuters could not find any documents indicating that a case had been filed by Luxottica with the NLRB.

The CWA said Luxottica – which was founded 60 years ago by Leonardo Del Vecchio and made him one of Italy’s richest men – like other European companies, has good relations with unions in his country but operates differently in the United States, taking advantage of weaker labor laws. the.

“I don’t think it’s going to fly when Italians realize that this company that prides itself on having a good reputation for being pro-worker treats people in America very, very differently,” Dubnau said.

A US spokesperson for Luxottica told Reuters that the company has “strong and productive relationships with unions around the world, wherever our employees choose to be represented by them.

“In Atlanta, our employees overwhelmingly voted in favor of a direct relationship with us instead of union representation less than three years ago,” the spokesperson added.

The McDonough plant produces lenses for subsidiaries of Luxottica, Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision, Oakley and other company-owned brands.

“The climate in the United States is changing. Support for unions is increasing and President (Joe) Biden has been very clear that his administration believes union membership is the best way for workers to improve their wages and working conditions, “said the CWA spokesperson. Beth Allen.

Just over 6 percent of private sector workers in the United States belong to unions.


Unions say plant managers in Georgia used a company app called “LiveSafe” to warn employees of the perceived risks of unionizing, including that they could lose their wages and benefits if they are successful. to form a union.

Unions said the app was originally intended to educate workers on issues related to COVID-19. Luxottica spokesperson said the app was introduced in 2018 and is a valuable platform to reach employees without email access.

Organizers also accuse factory managers in Georgia of setting up an anti-union website, hiring the Labor Relations Institute, a US consultancy specializing in helping businesses fight unionization, and of hiring the Labor Relations Institute. require employees to attend mandatory union denigration meetings.

“We don’t think having a union is in your best interest or ours,” the website https://luxfacts.com/ said.

“With an American union, the open culture of Luxottica would change. Your ability to be an individual contributor and to be successful on the basis of your own merit and hard work could be compromised. “

The OECD requires each member state to have so-called “national contact points” – or government offices – to investigate complaints about alleged violations of its guidelines for multinationals and to offer mediation. But it can’t impose sanctions or force companies to resolve disputes.

The unions also accuse the global management of Luxottica in Milan and Paris of not having dealt with the situation in Georgia.

The US spokesperson for Luxottica said all communications from company employees referring to unions “comply with US labor laws and standard practice for US companies.”

Georgia is a so-called “Right to Work State”, which means that workers in the private sector cannot be required to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment.

“These European companies, many of which deal with unions in Europe, exist in a very different environment there,” said former NLRB chairperson Wilma Liebman. “Call it Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, because these companies sort of have two different operating philosophies.”

Sonia Paoloni, a senior official at Italy’s largest union CGIL, told Reuters the company has excellent relations with unions in Italy and offers many benefits to its 14,000 local workers, including, for example, reimbursement cost of textbooks for the children of employees.

“I certainly find it difficult to recognize Luxottica’s behavior in Georgia as coming from the same company that I know in Italy. If Luxottica did the same in Italy, we would prosecute them for anti-union activity under our labor laws, ”she said.

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Additional reporting by Richa Naidu in Chicago and Dan Wiessner; Editing by Dan Grebler and David Gregorio

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