UE 240 Members’
Unity Gets Contract
FALL RIVER, Mass.
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
$200 in the last two years, Local 240 members kept the 85/15 split with the
company and made significant gains in other areas — after a concerted
membership campaign of stickers, mass negotiation sessions and job actions.
In the final two weeks of negotiations, workers gathered
outside the factory where the negotiating committee would explain events at
the bargaining table and get the members’ reactions to particular proposals.
Once the company had made an unacceptable "final offer" the members
began staying in the parking lot a little longer each day.
One day the entire membership lined up and punched out for
lunch, got in their cars, and went down to a local park nearby and punched
back in a half hour later. No one in the company knew what was happening.
Company officials had no idea where they were going — or if they were they
coming back. Other days saw lunch-time meetings, or most of the 40 workers
attending negotiations. Everyone would wear one of a number of stickers
stating the members’ position. ($.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
"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."
SOLIDARITY AND UNITY NET
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
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