A little more than two years ago, UE Local 204 members were on the unemployment line,
wondering if their bankrupt company would ever again provide meaningful jobs at good wages
and benefits for residents of southeastern Massachusetts. Three months after Haskon
closed, the aircraft seal manufacturer was purchased in June 1995 by Burke Industries of
San Jose, Calif., a manufacturer of rubber products for the airline industry.
Two years ago, the UE Local 204 Executive Board posed outside Boston's
Federal Building following court approval of their plant's sale. They safeguarded jobs
then; this year the local union won back key contract elements. From left, Al Petrasso,
Jack Tourinho, Janet Beaulieu, Local Pres. Bruce Chorlton, retiree Joan Sypher and Paul
Two years later, battered and bruised from the bosses' abuse of transfers, promotions,
overtime distribution and bosses doing bargaining unit work and the daily snarl of
"I'll do what I want," Local 204 began its campaign to regain lost ground.
Although new hires comprised half the workforce, the "old timers" worked to
insure that the company could not exploit this potential division. T-shirt days became the
all the rage, and the bright teal-green of UE 204 T-shirts was the predominant color
during the last week of negotiations. Through this display of unity, and through daily
lunch-time and shift meetings, every UE member and the non-members as well, made a point
of displaying 100 percent solidarity with each other..
NEW HIRES BACKED
The solidarity between "old timers" and new hires was no one-way street:
"Old timers" rejected the company's final offer because the new hires wouldn't
receive the full raises. Management had proposed "pro-rated" raises in
accordance with new hires' step within the wage progression schedule.
After membership rejection of its offer, the company quickly agreed to the new hires
getting the full raises. Local 204 members overwhelmingly accepted the new three-year
"We've waited two years for this," said Local 204 Pres. Bruce Chorlton.
"Two years ago we had no power and - just to get back to work - were forced to accept
a substandard contract. We were unemployed and on the street. Now that we are back in the
plant, we have power.
'GOT DIGNITY BACK'
"We got all the seniority language we needed," Chorlton continued. We're
getting our local reorganized and we've got our dignity back."
The three-year agreement restores key seniority protections on temporary transfers,
overtime distribution and layoffs. Bosses can no longer perform bargaining unit work,
workers get 5 percent above their rate when instructing other workers and there are
advance notice requirements on overtime work.
Funeral leave, jury duty and union business are counted as hours worked for vacation
earnings. If management doesn't reply within two weeks of a worker's vacation request, the
worker automatically gets the vacation. Step-children, son-in-law and daughter-in-law are
added to the funeral leave provision.
Workers with more than five years seniority will see their recall rights increased from
one to two years. Accident and sickness benefits are improved. A tool room allowance of
$100 and a $70 safety shoe allowance is added. The contract establishes a union-management
An employee dental plan, fully-paid by the company, takes effect; the company will pay
50 percent of the dependent premium. Wages are increased by 50 cents the first year and by
30 cents in each of the second and third years.
The union negotiating committee consisted of UE Local 204 Pres. Chorlton, Vice Pres.
Paul Rose, Rec. Sec. Al Petrasso, Chief Steward Pauline Arguin and at-large committee
members Jack Tourinho and Waldemar "Butch" Burgo. They were assisted by UE Field
Org. Peter Knowlton.