UE Members: Employees
Of Pliant, But Not
SO. DEERFIELD, Mass.
The new owner of the former Deerfield Plastics company here is
called Pliant Plastics. The members of amalgamated UE Local 274 who work here
are therefore employees of Pliant, but they are not pliant workers.
Union members were anything but "easily bent" in
refusing to go along with the company’s demand for $1.2 million in givebacks
— both before and after contract negotiations.
For many years the business was owned by a local company.
Huntsman Plastics acquired the company in 1996. Pliant, which bought the plant
about nine months before the start of negotiations, was started by a member of
the Huntsman family who borrowed lots of money so that he could purchase this
and other operations.
For the first time in their many years of UE organization, the
union members who produce plastic film here found themselves confronting a
Wall Street-driven corporation. Both Huntsman and Deerfield were family-owned,
'NOT A DISPUTE ABOUT NUMBERS'
The union and the company met for 19 sessions. Pliant had $1.2
million in givebacks on the table right up until the last bargaining session.
Of the 95 union members, at least 35 came to watch negotiations, particularly
in the last few sessions. Some workers brought family members with them, to
show the company that bargaining affected real people, and that it was not
just a dispute about numbers.
In the final hours Pliant backed down, withdrawing all of its
The new contract provides wage increases of 3 percent, 3
percent and 3.5 percent. The average wage prior to the contract was $19.50 an
Union members agreed to pay slight increases in health care
costs; they had paid $12 a week for family and $6 a week for single coverage,
Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The contract contained numerous changes in language
governing working conditions, including the attendance policy.
DEMAND UNANIMOUSLY REJECTED
About two weeks after contract ratification, the company said
that unless union members agreed to $1.2 million in givebacks (the same
demands that had been on the table), two machines would be removed. The loss
of machines would result in layoffs. Union members unanimously rejected
this blackmail bid. Subsequently nine workers were laid off, among them less
senior workers who had been among the most vocal critics of the company’s
givebacks. They fully understood that they might be laid off by rejecting the
The UE committee consisted of John Murdock, Dave
Kassing, Jim Verdier, Bruce Kanash, Kevin Glazier, Dave
Bellows, Jack Malloy, Adam Currier, Eric Langevin, Jeff
Sall and Frank Sarceno. They were assisted by Field Org. Paul
UE News - 03/01