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Long Struggle is Over
Local 758 Gains
First Contract at Glastic


Glastic workers and allies held on until a measure of justice was won in a first contract.

They didn’t let go: Glastic workers and allies held on until a measure of justice was won in a first contract. Pictured with the future Local 758 members back in October 1998 are Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark and UE members from locals in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

The Local 758 negotiating committee ...

The Local 758 negotiating committee included Pres. Bill Lally, Chief Steward Karen Hardin, Dave Reznak, Tricia Knam and Bob Heiskanen. (Not pictured are Dave Martin and alternates Linda Mikesell and Pam Aliff.)

Successfully concluding a 25-month struggle that saw protests from here to Japan and back, energized members of UE Local 758 at Glastic Corporation in Jefferson, Ohio voted overwhelmingly last month to ratify their first-ever union contract. UE reached a tentative agreement with the company on Dec. 12; members voted to ratify with a better than 95 percent margin on Dec. 17.

Glastic workers enjoyed the help of UE members in Ohio and Pennsylvania, U.S. labor movement allies and the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) in Japan, but it was their own persistence in the face of corporate hostility that ultimately made victory possible.

The mood was upbeat at the ratification meeting, as many members stood up to praise the agreement and the fine work of their elected committee. The four-year contract contains a $350 signing bonus, a 40-cent wage increase each November, company-paid health insurance, improvements in bereavement leave, holiday pay, medical leave policies, shift premiums, and overtime policies.

And finally, there is a grievance procedure, "just cause" standard for discipline, and a seniority system.

This day was long in coming for these plastics workers. Organizing in 1998, workers endured an intense company anti-union campaign that featured hostile videos, literature, half-truths and threats. In the thick of the anti-union campaign, the company even went so far as to fire a union supporter for smoking in the parking lot. Union members in the plant spontaneously and angrily united to tell management to bring him back to work — and management did.

The union gained a victory at the polls in October 1998, but the narrow margin of victory in the National Labor Relations Board election set the stage for the first-contract battle.



'This is a Story of a Boss Named Fred'

Chief Steward Karen Hardin sings a parody of the Beverley Hillbillies theme

At a March 1999 rally, Chief Steward Karen Hardin sings a parody of the Beverley Hillbillies theme penned by Local 758 member Jack Wolfe. Enjoying the song are Scott Buterbaugh of Loal 692 and Dave Martin and Merlin Thompson, Local 758.


Early in their struggle to build a union at Glastic, Local 758 members kept up their spirits by singing a song written to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme: "Let me tell you all a story ‘bout a man named Fred..." The "Fred" in question was a particularly nasty company vice president who became notorious for his insensitive reaction to the union’s proposal for bereavement leave.

"Fred said he’d never sign a contract with us. It turns out he was right," Local 758 Pres. Bill Lally points out. Not long after Kobe sold Glastic, Fred was fired. "He no longer works for Glastic," says Lally, "but we’re still here!"

Glastic Plastics, then owned by Kobe Steel, a giant Japanese transnational corporation, continued to fight against their workforce by proposing a concession-filled contract, hiring temporary workers, and stalling the bargaining. The members of new Local 758 fought back with rallies at the plant and at the Glastic headquarters in Cleveland. They were joined by UE members from all across Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as the Cleveland Jobs with Justice chapter and many other area trade unionists. The militant Japanese labor federation, Zenroren, protested the company’s shameful behavior in Ohio at Kobe’s corporate headquarters.

Bit by bit, UE continued to make improvements at the table in spite of the company’s continued stalling. Local 758 members continued in-shop shows of solidarity, filing grievances and signing petitions, and wearing stickers and T-shirts. Meanwhile encouragement continued to pour in from their supporters in the community and throughout the labor movement. Many UE locals sent letters of support to Local 758. UE Local 731 members in Conneaut, Ohio, asked their state representative for his assistance; George Distel agreed to send a letter supporting Local 758’s efforts. Other local politicians followed suit, as did some local clergy.


Inside the plant, UE won a number of victories. For example, press operators improved their ergonomics by winning the right to sit down at certain presses. The union convinced management to award a maintenance position to a woman for the first time in Glastic’s history (in the past, only men were considered). UE members reversed unfair practices with regards to distribution of company tickets for baseball games; they improved their vacation policy; and persuaded management to back off from some unjust discipline.

All of this was done through the unity and perseverance of the membership, and was often accomplished under the leadership of Chief Steward Karen Hardin, who earned the nickname "Norma Rae."

In late 1999, Kobe sold Glastic to the Michigan-based Crawford Industries, a large U.S.-based company with several UAW-represented plants. UE undertook solidarity work with the UAW as well as with members of the Paperworkers Union (PACE) employed at Glastic’s sister plant in Cleveland.


The company then changed ownership again, with Glastic separating from Cambridge but remaining with a subdivision of the company controlled by investor Richard Crawford. At long last, the company became persuaded to add a senior member of Glastic management to their bargaining committee. This new negotiator was clearly there to try to settle the contract. Discussions with company ownership and intervention by a federal mediator contributed to progress in negotiations. A tentative agreement was then reached in about three sessions.

UE Local 758 was represented at the bargaining table by Bill Lally, Karen Hardin, Bob Heiskanen, Dave Reznak, Tricia Knam and Dave Martin. Alternates on the committee were Linda Mikesell and Pam Aliff. They were assisted by Field Organizers Andrew Dinkelaker, Al Hart and Gail Francis and by International Representatives Debbie Gornall and Dennis Painter. They were also assisted by numerous rank and file volunteers, especially from Locals 751, 506, 731, and 618.

UE News - 01/01

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