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Pfizer worker launches drive to unionize global manufacturing facility in Portage

The sign in front of Pfizer's Portage campus is pictured in this file photo. (WWMT/File)
The sign in front of Pfizer's Portage campus is pictured in this file photo. (WWMT/File)
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Signatures from more than 1,000 hourly workers are being gathered as a longtime employee pushes forward with an effort to create a labor union at Pfizer's global manufacturing facility on Portage Road.

The employee, who isn't being identified for fear of losing his job, said 30% of the plant's workers would need to support the union to bring it up for a vote.

A majority of eligible workers must consent to form a union, which would require Pfizer to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with its workers.

The employee leading the effort to unionize has worked for Pfizer for 24 years.

"We have people jumping ship like crazy," the employee said.

An overwhelming majority of workers are not interested in joining a union, according to a statement from a Pfizer spokesperson.

Full Pfizer statement:

“We are aware that a union has approached some of our colleagues about their interest in union representation. We are encouraged that an overwhelming majority have volunteered to us that they are not interested in joining a union. We are a global company with unions all over the world; however, our strong preference is to deal directly with our workers on issues that arise from time to time.”

Anti-union signs and brochures are popping up around the Pfizer plant, according to the unionization effort's leader.

Frustration has mounted over Pfizer’s practice of hiring outside contractors, and changes to overtime policy which have resulted in lower pay for hourly workers, the unionization effort's leader said.

Pfizer eliminated 6th and 7th day pay practice at the company’s facilities in Portage and Franklin, Ohio on January 1, according to an internal memo obtained by News Channel 3 in Oct. 2021.

The union organizer said the decision cost him 20% of his expected annual pay.

"It's not just a Pfizer issue, it's a community issue at this point," he said. "When money is cut from your payroll you have to start doing without something."

A Pfizer company spokesperson declined to discuss outsourced workers and employee wages.

John Getz, organizer with the International Chemical Workers Union Council, said his union would represent Pfizer workers in Portage, if they voted to form a union.

Dues are set by each local union, but typically average nine dollars each week, according to Getz.

According to an internal memo sent to Pfizer employees, workers at the company’s Pearl River, New York plant voted out the International Chemical Workers Union Local 527-C in April 2021.

The company’s memo claimed the union negotiated raises of 1.5% per year—lower than non-union employees received.

Pfizer's 1,300 acre Portage facility is the drug giant's largest manufacturing plant. It produced the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency use authorization in the United States.

According to Pfizer's first-quarter earnings, revenue is up 77% from the same period last year, which is driven by sales of the company's COVID-19 vaccine, and oral COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid.

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Pfizer is building a $120 million facility at its Portage plant to produce Paxlovid which will create 250 news jobs, the company said.

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