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Strike Averted With
Reid Plastics Contract

PITTSBURGH

Reid Plastics Rally
 
In the foreground, Local 623 Pres. Jim Cook and Field Org. Jim Brown in the May 2 march from Leetsdale Community Park to the Reid Plastics plant.

Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark came to a meeting of Reid Plastics workers on May 11 to explain strike financial assistance before these Local 690 members decided whether to take strike action. Instead he witnessed a contract ratification meeting.

News of the UE officer’s visit apparently confirmed management’s suspicions that union members were prepared to stop work as the next phase of their six months’ battle for a decent settlement.

Reid workers and supporters rallied last October on the eve of negotiations. Since the previous agreement expired on Nov. 28, Local 690 members have conducted plant-gate rallies and shift meetings, worn UE buttons and T-shirts, attended negotiations and circulated petitions among supporters.

As talks stalled, union members wrote to Reid customers warning of possible disruption of deliveries. In the weeks leading up to the strike vote, Reid workers gave truck drivers letters asking them to respect UE picket lines. Local 690 met with area elected officials seeking their support in the event of a strike.

On May 2, UE District Six locals and other union and community supporters joined Reid workers for a march and rally.

Hourly wages will be increased by $1.25 over the contract term, coming close to realizing the union’s goal of bringing all Reid workers’ wages into the double digits, said Local 690 Vice President John Thompson. Under the previous contract, which expired Nov. 28, 1997, the lowest hourly wage was $7.85. For some Reid employees, the new wage increase will represent a gain of as much as 6 percent, Thompson said.

"The new contract goes a long way towards achieving family-sustaining wages at Reid," Thompson said.

Reid workers will gain the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a tenth paid holiday and a $500 signing bonus.

The union gained an additional week of vacation for a majority of covered Reid employees and successfully resisted company attempts to restrict use of vacation time for sickness or emergency. Reid workers will be able to use up to 48 hours of vacation time in the case of sickness or emergency, and will continue to accrue for up to 10 days during any approved absence and during leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Local 690 maintains 100 percent company-paid health insurance for individual employees and the 70-company/30-employee split for family coverage.

The weekly sickness and accident benefit will advance from $150 to $180 the first year and to $215 the third year. Reid workers will no longer run afoul of the company’s absenteeism policy by leaving work early due to illness.

The contract improves the time required to move from production worker to machine operator. The liberal bereavement leave policy is further improved with the addition of a third day for step-brother or step-sister. Under the continuous work schedule any hours worked in excess of eight hours earns a paid lunch break, down from 12 hours.

The new agreement takes away the company’s ability to arbitrarily give out wage increases to the maintenance department, which the union viewed as working to the company’s advantage and members’ disadvantage.

While past contracts expired in November, during the significant layoffs due to the product’s seasonality, the new expiration date is May 12. "This puts us right in the middle of our busy season," observed Thompson.

The contract struggle pitted the 40 UE members at the water bottle plant located in Leetsdale, outside Pittsburgh, against Reid Plastics, Inc., an Arcadia, Calif.-based chain with 30 plants and a half-billion dollars in sales. "We were able to win most of our objectives through the day-in, day-out unity of our membership," said Thompson. "This continues our struggle to build family-supporting wages."

On the morning of May 11, with their own negotiations still in doubt, two carloads of Reid workers traveled to West Virginia to join Local 611 members on the picket line on the first day of the Newell Porcelain strike.

This is the third contract between amalgamated UE Local 690 and Reid Plastics. In 1991, Reid agreed to recognize and bargain with UE and offer reinstatement and back wages to some 50 workers illegally laid off because of their effort to organize; this came in a settlement with the union and the National Labor Relations Board.

The UE committee consisted of Local 690 Vice Pres. John Thompson, Chief Steward Dave Shields and Fin. Sec.-Treas. Donald Snow. Rec. Sec. John Blinn and shop stewards Bill Rosser, Larry Byrd, James Raab and Dale Sarbey attended negotiating sessions and kept members informed. They were assisted by Field Organizers Shane Carlin and Jim Brown.

UE News - 05/98


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

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