Strike Averted With
Reid Plastics Contract
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 officers visit apparently confirmed managements
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 unions 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
companys 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
The new agreement takes away the companys ability to arbitrarily
give out wage increases to the maintenance department, which the union viewed as working
to the companys advantage and members disadvantage.
While past contracts expired in November, during the significant layoffs
due to the products 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