Local 218 Keeps Jobs
In Springfield, Vermont
Four months after UE Local 218 received notice of the intent
to close and move the Bryant Grinder Co., the union and parent firm have
reached a settlement that keeps the company here.
The settlement between UE Local 218 and Goldman Inc. actually
consists of two agreements: One between the union and Bryant Grinder Co. and
one between UE and Fellows Gearshaper, another Goldman-owned company in
Springfield where workers are also represented by Local 218.
At the heart of the settlements is Bryant Grinder’s pledge
to move its operation into the Fellows Gearshaper building and continue
production there, instead of moving most of the production to a non-union
subcontractor in Massachusetts.
Once inside Fellows Gearshaper, members of UE will work on
producing both lines of products, but for the next two years will work under
their separate contracts. There will be dual seniority systems and layoffs
will be strictly run according to product lines and the separate contracts.
LACK OF INVESTMENT
Goldman Inc. has owned the two machine-building companies for
over a decade now. Fellows Gearshaper makes machines that produce the gears
used inside transmissions. Bryant Grinder makes specialized metal grinding
machines that are used extensively in the auto industry. The union at both
companies has consistently protested the lack of reinvestment by the company.
No new machinery has been bought since Goldman Inc. acquired the two factories
and only minor repairs on existing machinery was performed. Last year workers
at both plants staged demonstrations to protest the slow destruction of the
two companies caused by no investment.
In announcing the closure of Bryant Grinder, the company
acknowledged that the union had been right all along. The lack of reinvestment
resulted in machinery 40 years old and many management mistakes that severely
hurt the company’s reputation and ability to produce grinding machines for
the auto and aerospace industry. While crying about foreign competition, the
company had to admit that the workers in Germany, Italy, Japan and Sweden
receive higher pay and benefits. The real difference is that the "foreign
competition" has plants with new equipment and therefore production is
cheaper and more efficient.
This admission of guilt did not make the workers at Bryant
feel any better, however.
The union had to enter a complex series of negotiations, first
to convince the company to move Bryant Grinder into the Fellows building,
which is only half occupied. This was the alternative to the company becoming
a "hollow corporation" whereby subcontractors produce and assemble
the entire line of Bryant Grinders. In this, the union was partially
successful. The company insisted and stuck with their plans to subcontract
some of the machining work. The company also refused to bring many of the
"indirect" workers with them in the move to Fellows Gearshaper.
About 65 workers will be laid off. This meant that the union had to negotiate
how the move would happen and also negotiate severance pay for workers who
would lose their jobs.
In addition to severance pay, the final settlement also
included early retirement provisions for Bryant workers, at age 58 with their
health insurance being paid for them and their families until they collect
The union then had to enter into negotiations over the impact
this move would have on workers at Fellows Gearshaper. Because the company
wanted to co-mingle production work of the two companies, there were many
issues involving seniority that concerned the workers at Fellows. A month of
negotiations then ensued over these issues, resolving in the dual seniority
system that will protect all the workers.
The company tried to take advantage of this situation by
demanding the union agree to a "broad band pay system" that the
company would be allowed to implement. Workers stood firm on this issue and
the company had to agree that such a system could only be implemented after
successful negotiations with the union and with ratification by the
The final agreements include the following.
An agreement that at the expiration of the Fellows contract
in January 2003, there would be an attempt to negotiate one single contract,
that includes the dual seniority systems.
Severance pay for Bryant workers at $350 dollars for each
year of service. Bryant workers do not have to wait to be severed but can
elect voluntary severance at anytime. Workers can collect unemployment,
severance pay and pension if they qualify.
Early retirement at age 58 (with a reduction in benefits)
with the company to pay all health insurances until the worker and their
spouse reach Social Security age. About 15 Bryant workers could be eligible
Both Bryant workers and Fellows workers will receive 3.5%
wage increases in 2001 and 2002.
Fellows workers will receive additional inequity raises of
.30 per hour the first year and up to .25 per hour the second year to start
the process of having parity in all wage classifications. (Bryant pay grades
were, on average, higher then Fellows).
There were also improvements in the Bryant pension plan and to
the sickness and accident plan.
The agreements include lengthy language on how the dual
seniority system will work.
The Bryant negotiating committee consisted of Brahm Muther,
Mike Woychosky, John Claflin, Ron Gilbert, Chris
Coughlin, Dave Hryckiewicz, Russ Abbott, Ron Corliss,
and John Water.
The Fellows negotiating committee consisted of Paul Spicer,
Ray Stocker Jr., Francis Bushaw, Ed Lohutko, Don
Twitchell, Alvin Anderson, Bill Simoneau and Brian Nelson.
Both committees were assisted by International Rep. David
Cohen and Field Org. Rachel Clough.