Long Struggle is Over
Local 758 Gains
First Contract at Glastic
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.
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
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
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
the narrow margin of victory in the National Labor Relations Board election
set the stage for the first-contract battle.
CHALLENGING A TRANSNATIONAL
is a Story of a Boss Named Fred'
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
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
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.
FINALLY, A CONTRACT
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