Local 766 Negotiates
Despite Closing Threat
|The Local 766 Negotiating Committee consisted of
Ken Bowersock, Ken Claybaugh, and John Rupert (front row) and Virgil Kennedy and Jeff Van
Meter (back row)
Local 766 members narrowly accepted a contract offer from
Ametek/Westchester Plastics under the threat of a plant closing last month. Union members
beat back the wage freeze and other concessions demanded by the employer, a manufacturer
of plastics and building materials.
Ametek issued the plant-closing threat on the first day of negotiations,
warning the union that upper management "had drawn a line in the sand and had decided
not to reinvest in the plant." The company insisted on the "flexibility" to
Complaining that Local 766 members were the highest paid in the division
and the area, the boss called for a wage freeze, as well as 12-hour shifts, elimination of
overtime after eight hours and elimination of double time on Sundays. Ametek also objected
that Local 766 had negotiated the best insurance in the company.
These threats set the worst tone for negotiations since the 1986 strike.
"They had a plan to close the place up, they didnt have a plan to keep it
open," said Local Pres. John Rupert. "Still, we went in and tried to get
Local 766 insisted on negotiating a new agreement without threats
and pointed out that Ametek closed a Pennsylvania plant after pressuring the union there
into contract concessions. The UE committee reminded Ametek that in the past three
negotiations, the union had demonstrated to the company its need to invest in new
equipment in order to stay competitive. Workers shouldnt pay for management
mistakes, the union said.
The final offer came with a letter stating that plant closing procedures
would be initiated in the event of membership rejection. The Local 766 committee shared
with the membership all the available information and documentation; workers voted for
ratification by a close margin.
The contract contains wage increases of 1.5 percent, 1.5 percent and 2
percent and a 10 percent upgrade for Grade III jobs.
The pension will go from $22 per years of service to $28.
The sickness and accident benefit will rise to $285 a week over the
contract term. Life insurance will increase to $27,000 by the end of the agreement. New
language improves the family leave policy.
While there is no monthly contribution for employee insurance coverage,
changes in insurance will include a $5 monthly contribution for employee and child
coverage, $10 a month for employee and spouse and $15 for family coverage. These
additional costs fall far short of the $70 a month the employer had proposed for certain
conditions. Deductibles and co-pays also increase.
Workers will now have the option to carry over two weeks vacation per
year; employees will now receive written notice of vacation time accrued even if on
layoff. New contract language streamlines the job-bidding process and requires the
employer to fully train people before they are operating a job alone.
An additional day of bereavement leave gives workers four days off with
pay in the event of a death in the immediate family.
The employer will pay half the cost of a pair of safety work boots or
shoes up to $40.
As a result of the employers failure to recognize the super
seniority of a worker elected steward while on layoff, the company will now recognize
super seniority regardless of job status.
Local 766 beat back Ameteks attempt to impose the 12-hour day, but
the final offer included continuous operations with eight-hour shifts for new hires and 50
percent of the shop, under certain conditions.
Local 766 also won reinstatement of Joe Fisher. The company had refused to
put Fisher back to work, citing a statement by the companys doctor who had
failed to perform any tests before concluding Fisher could not perform the full range of
duties required. "The doctor was bought and paid for by the company," Local
Pres. Rupert said. Results of tests taken by a physical therapist clearly demonstrated
Fisher was able to do the work, but the company still refused reinstatement. In the final
hours of negotiations Ametek gave in; Fisher has been called back to work.
After ratification, the members had a clear message for the employer:
Dont come to us in the next negotiations threatening a plant closing. "They
said they wouldnt invest in Ametek/Westchester Plastics without this agreement. We
made the first step, now the company has to make the next step to keep it open,"
Pres. Rupert said.
"We told them the day we signed the contract, if were still
here in three years, dont come back and pull the same stuff, because well
walk," Rupert said.
The Local 766 negotiating committee consisted of Pres. John Rupert, Vice
Pres. Jeff VanMeter, Sec. Virgil Kennedy, Treas. Ken Bowersock and Chief Steward Ken
Claybaugh. They were assisted by Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter and Field Org. Andrew