About 200 glass workers will vote next month on whether to keep their membership in the Glaziers & Glass Workers, a move designed to cement the union's status at seven area employers.
The elections, to be held Jan. 4-11, come amid rumors that the Ironworkers union, a sometime rival for construction jobs, is eyeing the glass workers' membership.
Ironworkers officials denied it.
"We're not raiding anybody," said Tom Michaels, business agent for Ironworkers Local 6. "It's never even been discussed."
Officials of the Glaziers & Glass Workers Local 660, a unit of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades in Cheektowaga, didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
Local 660 filed for elections at seven employers with 221 union workers in Erie and Niagara counties, according to petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
"I'm sure that (election) will go through smoothly," said Manny Candeias, operations manager at Clayton B. Obersheimer Inc. in Buffalo, the largest of the seven glass contractors. "If anything, it might make their coalition stronger."
As is common in the construction industry, the glass workers union represents members through prehire agreements with employers. The agreements don't require a membership vote to show support for the union, but neither do they give the union permanent status.
"Unlike any other industry, the parties (union and company) can walk away from each other at the expiration of the contract," said Paul Murphy, acting assistant director of the NLRB in Buffalo.
Employers denied they had any plans to drop recognition of the union at the expiration of the current contract.
If it wins the elections next month -- which employers said is the likely outcome -- the glass workers union will become the workers' permanent bargaining agent.
In addition to Obersheimer, with a proposed bargaining unit of 107 members, the employers involved in the elections are: Niagara Glass Inc. in Niagara Falls, with 18 members; Sterling Suburban Glass Co. in Kenmore, Clarence and West Seneca, 6 members; WRW Inc. in Elma, 6 members; Sterling Glass Dual Pane Inc. in Buffalo, 27 members; R.E. Krug Corp. in Tonawanda, 48 members; and Buchholtz Glass Co. Inc. in Buffalo, with 9 members.
Eligible to vote are current employees and those who worked 30 days in the last year, or 45 days within the last two years. Most glass contractors operate with a core group of employees, supplemented by workers from the union hall in peak periods.
Friction between the Glaziers and Ironworkers over jurisdiction on construction jobs has prompted speculation of a possible fight, industry sources said. Changes in construction techniques allowing installation of modular windows have glass workers performing tasks that used to be done by ironworkers.
"Apparently they (Glaziers) feel some other union is trying to organize their shops," said Marty Loughran, owner of Sterling Glass Dual Pane Inc.
But Michaels minimized the differences. A pending complaint to the Department of Labor regarding work performed on pre-glazed sash windows isn't an attempt to claim jurisdiction over tasks performed by glass workers, he said.
"It isn't a jurisdictional dispute," he said. "All they (glass contractors) have to do is pay the prevailing rate." Ironworkers earn $19.55 plus health and pension benefits.
The Glaziers union sold its building in Cheektowaga and merged with the Painters District Council 4 in 1998 after management problems resulted in a trusteeship by the parent International Brotherhood of Painters. The union took a $110,000 write-off on investments in 1996-97 and the trusteeship ended in 1998.
Next month's elections may give the Glaziers' newly installed officers an opportunity to demonstrate a show of unity and put the management problems behind them, employers said.
"I feel that the union is well represented now -- better than ever," Candeias said.