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Worker-to-Worker
Contact Organizes
Recycling Plant

ERIE, Pa.

Local 618 Pres. Betsy Potter with Hurwitz Scrap workers moments before asking management for recognition of the union. Martin Bayuk, president of new Local 616, holds the recognition demand.

Worker-to-worker contact brought UE organization and a union contract to workers at a Buffalo, N.Y. metal salvage plant in just weeks.

Liberty Iron & Metal, a large Erie-based recycling operation, recently acquired Hurwitz Scrap Co, a similar concern in Buffalo. While Liberty Iron workers are members of amalgamated UE Local 683, Hurwitz workers were not organized — not organized, that is, until a chance meeting between a Hurwitz truck driver and a Liberty Iron heavy truck/equipment mechanic one Friday.

Rich Drylie, the mechanic, is also the president of Local 683. He grabbed the opportunity to speak to a worker from the new yard. The Hurwitz driver seemed enthusiastic, and assured Drylie that he would have someone contact UE as soon as he got back to Buffalo.

He meant what he said.

The phone was ringing as soon as Drylie got home. On the other end was a Hurwitz worker eager to organize a union. Drylie set up a meeting with UE Field Org. John Lambiase; the two who attended got a crash course in the union’s policy and structure.

Solidarity Nets a Contract. Fast!

Word spread through the shop. A second meeting attracted the entire workforce. After hearing first- hand how UE operates, every worker signed a union card. Hurwitz workers went on to elect officers, organize constitution and negotiating committees and prepare a demand for union recognition.

Demanding recognition presented a small geographical problem, creatively overcome by rank-and-file unionism. On March 30 the demand was delivered simultaneously by Rich Drylie and John Lambiase in Erie and by UE Local 618 Pres. Betsy Potter and Field Org. Deb Gornall in Buffalo.

The company balked at recognition, forcing the parties to the National Labor Relations Board. A representation elected was scheduled for May 13. But the Hurwitz workers’ determination to have UE expedited matters. At a captive audience meeting, workers wore a variety of UE buttons and refused to say a word. An exasperated management gave in — and began contract negotiations the next day.

Contract Ratified

On April 14, a month before the scheduled election, the membership of new UE Local 616 unanimously ratified their first union contract.

Earlier this year, Hurwitz management granted workers additional vacation and paid time off, improved insurance and a 401(k) pension plan — all of which had been negotiated by Local 683 with Liberty Iron last summer. However, the company neglected to pass on the rest of the Erie local’s contract, including the raises, dental insurance, paid uniforms and the usual contract language for grievance procedure, seniority and voluntary overtime.

After the union came to Hurwitz, management offered the same contract as negotiated with Local 683 in Erie. This resulted in an 85-cent wage increase during the first 10 months of the contract, 35 cents a year for the remaining years and annual productivity raises for all. Several of the new members will receive $1 an hour up front to bring them up to the Erie union scale. And they gained UE contract language on seniority, grievances, overtime and other issues.

The Local 616 committee consisted of Pres. Martin Bayuk, Chief Steward Mike Downey, Treas. John LeRoy and James Steff, committeeperson. They were assisted by UE Field Org. John Lambiase and Local 683 Pres. Rich Drylie.

UE News - 04/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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