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Successful Settlement
To Northwest
Automatic Strike


Rally gave boost to the Local 1139 strike.
Rally gave boost to the Local 1139 strike.

Union members at Northwest Automatic Products waged a successful three and a half-week strike to defend their contract and win important improvements. The 100 members of amalgamated UE Local 1139 in Minneapolis demonstrated 100 percent solidarity — not one scab crossing the line. A rally just days before the settlement gave added strength to the strike.

Workers struck when the company insisted on gutting their retirement plan and offering only small wage increases offset by substantial increases in employees payments for health insurance. The company also demanded a four-year contract and offered virtually nothing in the way of benefit improvements.

The strike’s effectiveness convinced the company to greatly improve its offer. Although the current pension plan will end, the replacement will actually increase the amount of money the company will invest in its workers’ retirements.


Under the contract approved on July 12, wages will go up 3.5 percent each year of the three-year agreement. The existing health insurance benefits are completely maintained with no increases in employee payments. The annual dental maximum is tripled, from $500 to $1,500; for the first time the company will provide family dental coverage, paying about 80 percent of the premium. Sick pay is changed from a flat $240 a week to 55 percent of weekly pay, resulting in an increase of more than 50 percent for the average worker in a shop where the average pay will exceed $17 an hour.

The existing pension plan will be phased out during the term of the contract, but the company will be required to fully finance the previously underfunded plan so that all benefits within it are finally completely vested. After that time, employees will receive annuities upon their retirement. The company will phase in a 401(k) plan to which they will make a guaranteed contribution of 2 percent of each employee’s salary, an amount roughly equal to what was needed to maintain the old pension plan. In addition, the company will match 50 percent of employee contributions up to 2 percent. But the key to settling the pension plan was that the company agreed to make good on a separate, unvested pension benefit that most employees never expected to see. Instead, the company will deposit the current value of that benefit in each employee’s 401(k), an average of about $2,500 per worker.

The rally in front of the Northwest Automatic Products office saw 60 UE members demonstrate their determination for a decent contract, along with representatives of the SEIU and UAW in support. Josh Syrjamaki, policy liaison, represented U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone who was on Minnesota’s Iron Range with workers facing loss of their jobs. Wellstone supports the rights of workers, Syrjamaki said. Doug Williams of the Minnesota Industrial Union Council said fighting to keep what we have is the right thing for workers to do. Local 1139 is a council affiliate.

The negotiating committee consisted of Chief Steward Flo Magadan, and Committeepersons Bruce Spilman, Paul Nelson and John Morris. They were assisted by UE Field Org. Rocky DeMaio and District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen.

UE News - 07/00

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