Local 123 Gives
‘Thumbs Up’ To Contract,
UE Local 123 members rallied, marched and otherwise made their concerns crystal clear to management in six long and difficult weeks of negotiations that culminated in an acceptable settlement this month. The union membership dumped takeaways, made progress in contending with outsourcing and gained the retirement plan they demanded.
Local 123 members gave "thumbs up" to a new
three-year contract in voting on April 16, approving the agreement with McQuay
Throughout the six weeks of negotiations, UE members at the
air conditioning plant gave "thumbs up" to renewed solidarity, using
the gesture to indicate support for the union’s bargaining goals.
Solidarity was strengthened by improved communications,
several rallies and meetings and in-shop activity. Concerns about outsourcing
and an inadequate retirement plan fueled the Local 123 campaign for a decent
E-MAIL AND PHONE TREE
Local 123 began conducting weekly stewards’ meetings. The
local’s newsletter, The Bulldog, came out daily during negotiations,
to report on the nearly daily bargaining sessions. With the help of Asst.
Chief Steward Jack Chandler, Local 123 began an e-mail message system,
and instituted a phone tree.
Retirees Ervin Bryant and Wendell Roberts spoke
in solidarity and support at local meetings. Jim Flickenger of the
Independent Brotherhood of DuPont Workers and Allen Laymen of AFSCME
Local 3983 came before Local 123 members to pledge their support for the UE
Meanwhile, negotiations were proceeding slowly. Four weeks
into the talks, McQuay presented the union with 18 pages of attacks on wages,
seniority, hours of work and benefits.
UE members mobilized on the shop floor, sending a message to
bosses they wanted a decent contract. Those messages were often creative and
worker-driven, not union-initiated. McQuay workers made their own buttons and
signs. They unleashed periods of noise and moments of silence.
RALLIES AND MARCHES
Union members also marched through the plant, four times on
the day before the contract expired. Twenty-five took part in the first march;
on the second time through, more than 70 paraded through the cafeteria as
management personnel sat down to eat.
Two plant-gate rallies boosted morale and drew extensive media
coverage; the second, on the eve of contract expiration was the biggest. In a
strong display of determination, some Local 123 members camped out in their
strike headquarters while waiting for information from the bargaining table.
"I don’t want to go on strike," said Ray Stroop,
a 35-year worker. "Nobody does. But sometimes you have to stand up for
what is right. I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t think it was
right," he told a newspaper reporter at one of the union’s rallies.
Negotiations went 24 hours the final day; at about 6:30 a.m.
the union committee agreed to a settlement subsequently ratified by the
membership. The new contract contains wage increases of 40, 45 and 45 cents.
The union gains a better health package, with deductibles cut, premiums frozen
for 18 months, and coverage increasing from a 80/20 to 90/10 employer-employee
Local 123 made an advance in its efforts to eliminate
outsourcing, winning a contract language which provides for a committee to
analyze all outsourcing proposals — and consider alternatives — before a
part is sent out.
A 401(k) plan, a major goal for many McQuay workers, is also
achieved in this contract.
Serving on the Local 123 negotiating committee were Pres. Gary
Wood, Vice Pres. George Bunch, First Shift Chief Steward Fred
Ashby, Second Shift Chief Steward Dennis "Bubba" Grimm,
Sec. Brenda Shoemaker and Fin. Sec. Danny "Beetle" Bailey.
They were assisted by UE Field Org. George Waksmunski and Intl. Rep. Bruce
UE News - 04/00