Polco Workers Fight
To Defend Union,
And for Second Contract
Local 1196 members and supporters rally for worker rights and a second
UE contract. The sign carried by the worker at center translates from Spanish, No
threats against immigrants.
Polco Metal Finishing workers, members of UE Local 1196, succeeded
in winning a second contract with improvements in both wages and benefits but only
after defeating a company effort to destroy their union.
Instead of routine preparation for negotiations, Local 1196 members first
had to beat back an illegal decertification campaign by the boss and a racist
anti-immigrant campaign. Polco workers went on the offensive, circulating a petition
signed by 80 percent of the workforce defending the union and the rights of all workers
employed at Polco.
It took much more to win a contract, however.
A big plant-gate rally March 31 drew supporters from Milwaukee County
AFL-CIO locals as well as UE members from Locals 1111, 1112, 1125, 1127, 1135, 1172 and
1193. Speakers at the rally included UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark and District 11 Pres.
On May 4, Polco workers conducted a one-day strike to protest the
continued unfair labor practices committed by the company. Protests continued through May
and June, with UE members blowing whistles, marching into the plant and wearing armbands
and buttons. Union members also spoke to the companys customers about
managements treatment of employees.
In the end, the union reached agreement on a 29-month contract with wage
increases totaling 8 percent. Polco workers will receive an immediate 3 percent increase,
another 3 percent raise at the beginning of the second year and 2 percent for the final
five months covered by the agreement.
Other important improvements include a guarantee that the company will
pick up all increases in insurance costs during the length of the agreement, an additional
day of paid bereavement leave, more paid vacation days for workers with between six and 15
years of seniority, a paid safety committee and stronger contract language on seniority,
job posting and protections for laid off workers.
The UE Local 1196 negotiating committee consisted of Pres. Juan Ramirez,
Vice Pres. Freddy Gallegos, Chief Steward Salvador Lezama, Salvador Castro and Robert
Flowers. The committee was assisted by District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen, International
Representatives Terry Davis and Tim Curtin and Field Org. Ramiro Castillo. Local 1196 is
appreciative of the help from the Milwaukee UE locals, and especially grateful to Local
1111 for the meeting space provided during the many months of the long contract fight.