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UE 240 Members’
Unity Gets Contract



The company got the message delivered by UE Local 240 members. Their unity delivered gains in the new contract between Local 240 and Elbe Cesco Inc.

Members of UE Local 240 at Elbe Cesco, Inc. settled a new contract that saw wage increases, additional paid time off, and the beginnings of a retirement plan.

Although family health insurance premiums increased by over $200 in the last two years, Local 240 members kept the 85/15 split with the company and made significant gains in other areas — after a concerted membership campaign of stickers, mass negotiation sessions and job actions.

In the final two weeks of negotiations, workers gathered outside the factory where the negotiating committee would explain events at the bargaining table and get the members’ reactions to particular proposals. Once the company had made an unacceptable "final offer" the members began staying in the parking lot a little longer each day.


25 cents??!!

One day the entire membership lined up and punched out for lunch, got in their cars, and went down to a local park nearby and punched back in a half hour later. No one in the company knew what was happening. Company officials had no idea where they were going — or if they were they coming back. Other days saw lunch-time meetings, or most of the 40 workers attending negotiations. Everyone would wear one of a number of stickers stating the members’ position. ($.25...Kiss my @#$%^&*! was the all-time favorite.) That show of unity and strength convinced the company to eventually present a real final offer the members could accept — and they did overwhelmingly.

"This was the best negotiating committee we have had in a long time," said Local Pres. Diane Culoumbe. Added Chief Steward David Medeiros, "The membership really stood together and the day when everyone punched out together and no one had old the company, I knew we were in good shape. When you have that unity, you will almost always get more than what the company wants to give."


The new one-year contract includes a wage increase of $.30 and an additional $.10 in six months (which will bring the average wage for production workers up to $9.50 an hour); an additional $.25 inequity increase for certain workers; one additional paid personal day for workers with two or more years’ service and two additional paid personal days for workers with 5 years or more service. The company will establish a 401(k) plan.

Elbe Cesco workers joined the UE in 1995 after throwing off the shackles of a notoriously corrupt business union and becoming independent. The overwhelmingly low wage non-union looseleaf binder industry is seeing shop after shop close as the big office supply companies get more and more of their products made overseas for a fraction of the cost. However, UE 240 members produce custom-made looseleaf binders, folders, and diploma covers; despite the prevalence of non-union/low-wage/low-benefit/no-security conditions throughout the industry, these UE members’ skill, speed, and quality of work of demonstrates how a strong union shop can survive in such an anti-worker environment.

The negotiating committee consisted of Diane Coulombe, David Medeiros, Filomena Vieira, Donna Dias, Lily Walker, Robert Sousa and Tim O’Brien. They were assisted by Field Org. Peter Knowlton.

UE News - 07/01

Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives -> Article

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