But Miles to Go'
Small Table Report
Friday, June 23rd, 2000
Its D-Day minus two and counting and all is not
well in New York City. GE, which earlier in the week had indicated
it would be laying most of its cards on the table early, has instead
opted for a "dribs and drabs" approach. This is apparently
designed to keep everyone guessing about their ultimate plans as
they leave us to ponder whether the best or worst is being saved for
But fortunately for the side of the angels, GEs
refusal thus far to come to grips with the major issues of the
negotiations has provoked a wave of activity on the part of GE union
members across the country. In Niles, Ohio, UE Local 751 members
received 100% support on a petition backing the unions program,
and it was delivered to GE representatives here in New York. In
Ontario, California, UE Local 1010 members were on schedule with a
plant gate demonstration. UE Local 332 members in Ft. Edward, New
York, decked themselves out in snake-adorned T-shirts carrying the
message, "if provoked, I will strike." In Conneaut, Ohio,
UE Local 731 members finished the task of filling up picket duty
rosters. And in Erie, Pennsylvania, Local 506 and 618 members
culminated an entire weeks worth of activity with something they
call "band practice", during which the worker
"musicians" have been known to create quite a din in the
As for the more mundane world of the bargaining
table, some small progress was made on Friday, but theres miles
to go before we sleep. The company attempted to demonstrate the
worth of their pension proposals on the guaranteed minimum tables
and the career earnings update to an unconvinced union committee. GE
did come across with a useful "look back" provision to the
joint and survivor option, but has yet to offer anything at all on
the career formula, supplements, early retirement, or disability
GE put a few useful items on the table to modify
Article XXIII, "Job and Income Security", but nothing that
in any fundamental way impedes their job slashing tendencies,
referred to by GE euphemistically as "flexibility." Nor
was a SERO "window" anywhere to be found.
Perhaps the days most interesting development was
the partial retreat by the company on a couple of its insurance cost
shifting proposals. Withdrawn was a real stinkeroo to up the ante on
doctors office visits under HCP by 33%. In addition, GE modified
its horrendous "reverse COLA" proposal to make it somewhat
less costly to its intended victims, GE workers. However, the very
real danger of the attempted introduction of automatic increases in
insurance contributions tied to increased medical plan costs is
still lurking ominously. More than any other single issue, this
horrendous company proposal threatens to derail the entire
The days denouement consisted of an increase by
GE in its previous wage proposal. The problem is that GE is moving
upward at the approximate rate of a lead balloon. Nor was there any
COLA improvement to be found for thirsty GE workers.
Still, Friday was a good day, not because of any
great movement at the bargaining table, but because of the unity and
solidarity displayed by GE workers here in New York City and across
the country. Salud!
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
throughout the day, taking up a variety of issues.
Numerous problems with benefit plan enrollments were
detailed, with appropriate solutions being offered by union members
at the table.
In the afternoon, union negotiators were angered by
GEs stalling in response to critical requests for pension plan
information. Subcommittee members demanded that GE come across with
their projected figures for the growth of the already mammoth
pension trust fund. Company representatives essentially blew off
this reasonable and necessary request, obviously taking great care
to further protect the GE pension "business". Tight with
the pension bucks, and tight with the information about the pension
bucks as well.
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, and Joyce
Sumner, Local 332.
In the morning session, subcommittee members took
the company to task for their unscrupulous conduct around the world.
GEs refusal to recognize the rights of their
Malaysian workers was exposed, and the companys growth in vast
sweatshop zones such as Mexico were laid out in detail. All this was
met with a weak GE defense amounting to a claim that they followed
the laws of whatever country they operate in. UE members hammered
the company to do better, not to just hide behind a legal fig-leaf.
As the day progressed, union negotiators pushed for
additional paid leave.
Various issues of concern to GE Apparatus Service
Shop workers was also laid out, with demands being made for better
tool, shoe, and meal allowances. Company behavior in managing the
shops was blasted, particularly episodes where service shop workers
were sent on-the-road to do the work of other laid-off GE workers.
Also during the day a general push for wage and COLA increases was
UE was represented at the Contract Language
Subcommittee table by co-chair Pat Rafferty, Local 506, Betsy
Potter, Local 618, Nita Gonzales, Local 1010, Bob Brown, Local 332,
and UE International Representative Chris Townsend.