Two years ago, over 100 workers at Cascades Containerboard's Niagara Falls plant voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.
But they still don't have a first contract with their employer.
Union officials and their supporters ramped up attention to that point with a rally outside the Packard Road plant on Tuesday afternoon.
"All we want them to do is come to the table with an open mind, to negotiate a fair and equitable agreement," said Ron Warner, directing business representative for Machinists District 65. "We're not here to break the bank. We're here to get these guys a system in place and procedures in place that both parties in the workplace, union and management, can follow."
The plant, owned by Quebec-based Cascades, makes corrugated filler for cardboard. Warner said orders for the company's products have been booming, with so many people placing online orders during the pandemic.
The plant was formerly known as Norampac, before the division of Cascades adopted the parent company's name. Next door is Cascades' Greenpac Mill, which is not part of the contract dispute.
Warner said the Machinists union represented about 120 workers at the Cascades plant at the time they were organized; that number is now about 110 workers. The workers voted in favor of joining the union in April 2019, and the National Labor Relations Board certified the election results a month later.
"The members have not lost any interest," Warner said. "If anything, it's much stronger than it was when we organized them two years ago." But negotiations have failed to produce a deal for workers to vote on, he said.
Hugo D'Amours, a Cascades spokesman, said the company is committed to reaching a contract. "We hope to come to a negotiated agreement to the satisfaction of both parties," he said. "I think it is certainly something we share."
As to why the process has taken two years, D'Amours said first-time labor contracts often take longer to establish than renewals. He said the Covid-19 pandemic caused complications, as well as "operational difficulties" at the plant in recent months, "which took a quite of lot of attention as well."