$ense to Workers;
Celebrating the April 1998 return to work of Local 794 Pres. Larry
Jamason, who had been illegally fired by the previous owner, were Jamason, Willie Lawhorn,
Revella Adams, Kevin Wilson and Mike Heffner.
Workers employed by Jamestown Industries are enjoying the
dollars-and-cents gains of their first UE contract, an agreement they achieved through
their own dogged perseverance through ownership changes, bizarre business disputes,
firings and attacks on their union.
"We can feel proud about ourselves," says Local 794 Pres.
Larry Jamason, a 12-year company veteran. "We got a decent pay raise. Its
better working in there now. Weve got the power, were union!"
He adds, "If we did not stand up, wed be in the same boat we
were in, at the mercy of the big boss man."
Jamestown workers first contacted the UE in 1987; the union narrowly lost
an election conducted that year by the National Labor Relations Board. The boss made
promises "things would get better" if workers voted down the union. They
didnt. The boss granted a 50-cent wage increase as a reward for voting
"no," but later took it away.
Seven years later, Jamestown Industries workers again contacted UE.
This time it was clear they were not going to buy the bosss lies. The boss responded
with illegal intimidation and threats. Seven hours before the NLRB election, the employer
fired six UE supporters on the third shift.
UE narrowly lost the June 1994 election because of the employers
illegal unionbusting. The union filed charges with the Labor Board, which many months
later issued a three-page complaint and ordered Jamestown Industries to bargain with UE.
The employer eventually agreed to recognize the union to avoid a costly National Labor
Relations Board hearing.
Once workers gained recognition of their union, in the spring of 1996, the
new UE Local 794 members spent the next few months in negotiations for a first contract.
But with bargaining almost completed, the company underwent major changes.
A partner purchased part of the company, costing the union some of its
support. (The new firm closed soon after.) And then the employer announced the sale of the
plant and remaining business to another company.
KMO Corp. took over in January 1997, recognized the union and resumed
first-contract negotiations. Six months later, however, the company fired Local 794
Pres. Larry Jamason on phony grounds and withdrew recognition of the union. The new
owner also tried to end seniority, take away sick time and workers sick leave
"bank," merit increases and profit-sharing. More charges were filed with the
Labor Board, which issued a complaint that called for reinstatement of Jamason with full
back pay and return of benefits.
Like the previous employer, KMO Corp. decided to settle rather than go to
court. Under the terms of the settlement, the company agreed to recognize and bargain with
the union and reinstate Jamason with back pay. In addition, KMO agreed to pay employees
back payments owed for profit sharing.
TURN TO THE BIZARRE
But first, events took a turn toward the bizarre. Embroiled in a
bitter dispute with General Motors, KMO management shut the plant and installed armed
guards to prevent GM from seizing product and GM-owned machinery. (The plant produces
fiberglass springs and other parts for the automotive industry.) Eventually GM finagled
the sale of the plant to the previous owner KMOs contract with the auto giant
expired and forced KMO to pay workers $50,000 still owed for profit sharing, merit
increases and back wages related to improper recalls.
Back in control of the business, the old Jamestown Industries boss pledged
to recognize the union and restart negotiations.
While in the midst of his own shops struggle for a first contract,
Local Pres. Larry Jamason helped out JPE workers last fall in their successful organizing
campaign. Jamason made home visits and phone calls that declared voting UE was the best
thing JPE workers could do. Remarkably, so did former Jamestown Industries workers laid
off more than two years earlier.
A tentative three-year agreement reached on Dec. 9, 1998 was ratified by
the Local 794 membership on Dec. 16. "We made quite a few improvements," Jamason
told the UE NEWS.
The contract calls for a first-year wage increase of $1.25
retroactive to Sept. 1, 1998. Workers received the increases the week before Christmas.
The same week, six workers received back pay owed by KMO more than $4,000 each.
Hourly wages will advance by 3 percent effective Sept. 1, 1999, and again
Sept. 1, 2000. These increases represent a major advance for Jamestown Industries workers,
who for years had been stuck in a wage progression schedule that stopped at $7.75.
Cost-of-living adjustments and profit sharing payments were not added to wage rates.
With the first year increase, most workerss pay is up to $9 an hour,
Jamason reports. By the end of the contract many will be making more than $10 an hour.
Group leaders receive an additional 75 cents an hour,
coordinator/inspectors an additional 30 cents. The contract advances the shift premium by
5 cents and requires double time for any hours worked on Sunday.
Under their first UE contract, Jamestown workers gain an additional paid
holiday, the day after Thanksgiving, and a fourth week of vacation for workers with more
than 20 years of seniority.
RIGHT TO STRIKE
The agreement enshrines workers right to strike over grievances
and safeguards these hard-won conditions with a union security clause.
The employee insurance contribution is frozen at the 1998 level for the
life of the agreement. The contract improves sick leave policy. Previously, workers were
required to present a doctors note if using any sick time; now, workers can take up
to three days without a doctors excuse.
The parties agree to resume negotiations on a pension plan in the second
year of the contract.
The Local 794 committee consisted of Pres. Larry Jamason and Vice Pres.
Mike Heffner. They were assisted by Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter.