'Maze of Obstacles'
Small Table Report
Saturday, June 24th, 2000
The penultimate day of negotiations for a new UE-GE
National Contract, has now come and gone, with the mighty General
Electric Company still playing a game of hide and seek with over
30,000 GE Union members. The yawning gulf separating the union and
the company negotiators closed ever so slightly today, but a maze of
obstacles standing in the way of a new contract remain.
Chief among these is GEs "Reverse
COLA" on medical care cost shifting which remains
prominently on the table, even as the company sensibly withdrew
their proposal to sock it to retirees on prescription drug co-pays.
In addition, with one day to go, there has yet to be any sighting of
the SERO window, which long service GE workers, anxious to bid adieu
to the GE pressure cooker, have been clamoring for.
On the pension front, GE upped the earnings
threshold before imposing mandatory contributions, and put a modest
increase in the supplements on the table. Nevertheless, disability
and early retirement areas are untouched, and GE has refused thus
far to address adequately the need to extend supplements to cover
the rising Social Security ages. Moreover GEs offer on the
pension tables remains grossly inadequate. A Union counter proposal
on this today awaits the companys response.
GEs wage offer inched upward today, and we do
mean inched, with still no sign of a COLA improvement. On the
brighter side GE did propose a skilled rates adjustment. There were
also some language changes in Article XXIII, Job and Income
Security, as well as Death in Family, among others.
So now it has come down to the end, with the most
financially successful corporation on the face of the earth kicking
and screaming over the demands of its workforce for a little slice
of justice. Whatever tomorrow brings, GE Workers are to be commended
for getting up and standing up for themselves, their families, and
UE was represented at the small table by General
President John Hovis and UE-GE Conference Board Secretary Steve
The union members representing UE and the CBC unions
on the Pension and Insurance Subcommittee finished up their work
with a half-day session that reviewed union demands.
Point after point was driven home regarding the need
for a fair and substantial pension settlement. And with a pension
trust fund that is bulging like a carcass in the hot sun, lame
company excuses for why improvements were "not
competitive" were demolished for one final time during this
round of negotiations.
On the insurance front, subcommittee members also
re-capped union demands for across-the-board improvements. And
regarding GE attempts to shift an ever-expanding amount of health
care costs onto the backs of union members, company negotiators were
introduced to the newest description of these concession demands.
Instead of using the company description for these concessions,
delegates revealed to the company that the health concession demands
were more accurately described as the "Special Health
Insurance Takeaways" otherwise
known as "SH*T". This also gave rise to the new
slogan in opposition to this attack, "No SH*T!"
Company negotiators took detailed note of this presentation.
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
The Contract Language Subcommittee met for half a
day as well, and also re-capped an array of union demands.
Delegates pushed hard for a fair and ample wage
increase, a sweetened COLA, improvements in paid time off, and
improvements in various Apparatus Service Shop issues. GE arguments
to the contrary were flattened in short order.
The company was also excoriated for their
willingness to extend key pension improvements to unorganized GE
workers during several recent UE organizing drives. This use of the
pension trust fund as a union busting device was exposed for one
And in one final blast, UE Subcommittee co-chair Pat
Rafferty told the company that the rank-and-file back home had no
interest in paying more for their health care via the "Special
Health Insurance Takeaways"
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.