Between GE, Unions
Small Table Report
Thursday, June 22nd, 2000
Not much to report today, and considering the two
preceding days, this constitutes an improvement.
For most of Thursday, the union committee met
together to fashion a response to GEs two-day
"roll-out." When the two sides finally faced each other
well into the afternoon, the Union reviewed each and every GE
proposal telling the company which was acceptable, and which was
rejected. The Union side then proceeded to tell GE which of the CBC
list of contract demands was still "on the table." A
number of issues, for the most part minor, were cleaned up. There
were improvements in STD and LTDI benefits, and some of GEs less
controversial insurance proposals, where they represented
improvements to the insurance plan, were agreed to.
But, for the most part, Thursday was an exercise in
clearing away the underbrush at the edge of a wide chasm. On one
point both the union and the company are in full agreement the
size of the gap separating the two sides on major issues is big.
Maybe even as big as one of GEs bulging vaults in Fairfield.
In no particular order, the issues of medical
insurance, wages and COLA, job and income security, and pensions are
nowhere near resolution with just three days to go before the
contract expires. It would appear the GE is taking one of what they
call their "big swings" at UE and the entire CBC,
particularly on the issue of medical insurance cost shifting.
The appropriate response to GEs "reverse
COLA" and other insurance takeaways was delivered today by the
members of UE Locals 506 and 618 in Erie, Pennsylvania. There the
members en masse covered their noses with band-aids in an attempt to
combat the stench of GEs proposals which have wafted their way
into the atmosphere all the way from New York City.
Elsewhere around the chain, union tee shirts,
buttons, and other paraphernalia are out in abundance as GE union
members from New England to California are in motion in support of
their representatives in New York. Tomorrow, a CBC rally in downtown
New York near NBC headquarters will underscore our demands for
simple justice from this industrial Goliath.
Much can, and no doubt will, happen in the next
three days. Be sure to check in here for the gory details tomorrow [In
a report to be posted Saturday morning].
UE was represented at the small table by General
President John Hovis and UE-GE Conference Board Secretary Steve
The Pension and Insurance Subcommittee met all day
on Thursday. UE local representatives joined CBC union participants
in mounting a push to freeze all current medical and prescription
costs to GE employees. Added to this, heavy pressure was applied to
force the company to improve the inadequate mental health and
substance abuse treatment benefits, pointing out that only 5% of
applicants for inpatient substance abuse treatment are currently
accepted. Additional time was spent demanding that the company
improve dental, vision, and preventive health screening benefits.
In an afternoon grand finale, the company was
severely chastised by the union for their deliberate treatment of
the GE pension trust as a business as opposed to a fund that exists
for the sole benefit of the participants. The company had little to
say in response to union accusations that the pension trust is being
hoarded in anticipation of political changes that would some day in
the future allow GE to grab billions of dollars in
"over-funding" for their own use. Union requests for
various pension improvements were derided by the company as
UE was represented at the Pension and Insurance
Subcommittee table by Dave Adams, Local 506, Chris Barrickman, Local
731, Ted Bradley, Local 1010, Bill Callahan, Local 751, Joyce
Sumner, Local 332, and UE International Representative Chris
UE local representatives opened the day at the
Contract Language Subcommittee table by joining the chorus of voices
that hit the company hard for its rabidly anti-union behavior during
various attempts by unorganized GE workers to unionize. Outlandish
anti-union company conduct was pointed out in recent organizing
efforts in New Hampshire, Indiana, West Virginia, and Mexico.
Despite company claims that they have a "good" record when
non-union GE workers seek to organize, UE and CBC union delegates
treated the company to example after example of their shameful
"Union Avoidance" conduct, including the sponsorship of an
anti-union class at the company management academy in Crotonville,
Also in the morning, delegates made the case for
improvements in the arbitration procedure, in particular an
expansion of issues covered by the expedited arbitration process.
Later in the day improvements were demanded in the
salaried, new hire, and night shift progression schedules. The
company was also reminded that in lieu of additional overtime a
substantial number of new hires should be placed on the payroll. To
round out the session, a push for additional paid leave was made by
UE was represented at the Contract Language
Subcommittee by co-chair Pat Rafferty, Local 506, Betsy Potter,
Local 618, Nita Gonzales, Local 1010, and Bob Brown, Local 332.