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Gains in Vacations, Seniority Rights
Contract at Newell;
Long Strike Ends

NEWELL, WV

A long hot summer is nearly over in this Ohio River town, as members of UE Local 611 return to work at Newell Porcelain after a 12-week strike.

The 67 union members faced provocations from a unionbusting security force, strikebreakers, an injunction, an intransigent management and a relentless summer sun that turned picket-line shanties into something resembling ovens.

But well-organized strike committees, support from family and neighbors and from UE and other unions, and their own dogged determination saw Local 611 members into nearly their fourth month on the picket line.

In the final weeks, the plant manager quit, damaged parts piled ever-higher in scrap bins and the company=s chairman of the board involved himself in negotiations.

Local 611 members voted 55-7 to strike effective 11 p.m. on May 10 when negotiations failed to produce improvements in seniority and wages. By a much closer vote, Local 611 members on Aug. 3 ratified a settlement reached the night before.

NEW CONTRACT

Wages will be increased by $1.25 over four years. In addition, maintenance employees will get an additional $1 within the next one year, delivered in two 50-cent increments.

Local 611 members had hoped to scrap a departmental seniority system that sometimes left long-service workers vulnerable to layoff; failing to reach that goal this time, the union obtained language that protects senior workers by allowing them to bump back into their original areas.

UE members fended off any increase in insurance deductibles --- and will continue to enjoy health insurance without employee contributions towards the premium.

The 1998 negotiations broke through the two-year cap on vacations; those workers with 10 or more years= service will receive a third week of vacation, a gain which will affect a majority of Newell employees during the contract term.

Disability coverage is increased to $250 a week. Life insurance goes from $10,000 to $12,500. The company=s contribution to the 401(k) plan rises from 25 cents to 40 cents.

ALL RETURN

All strikers will be returning to work, including those fired as a result of a picket-line incident C instigated, witnesses say, by a security guard who smacked his walkie-talkie against the head of Field Org. Shane Carlin. Due to the nature of the production process C Local 611 members make ceramic insulators used on electrical power lines C a slow start-up process will bring all workers back to the job by Sept. 8.

From the first week of the strike the support of neighbors was evident by the posters in windows of homes and stores. Two Newell business owners posted bond for the workers facing charges because of the picket-line incident. Clergy and family turned out for a prayer vigil during the first week of the strike; the First Presbyterian Church, just a block from the plant, provided desserts for the local=s spaghetti dinner one week before negotiators initialed the settlement.

An Ohio food bank provided a truck load of victuals, as many of the strikers live on the Buckeye side of the river. The independent union at nearby Weirton Steel and the USWA local at Wheeling-Pitt made hefty donations. Employees of the Homer Laughlin China Co., next door to Newell Porcelain, conducted food drives to support Local 611 members. UE Local 506 weighed in with a big contribution, and donations to the strike fund were made by the National union and UE locals in District Six and around the union. Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark made several trips to the picket line.

Serving on the UE Local 611 negotiating committee were Pres. Allen AButch@ Potts; Vice Pres. Paul Geisse; Rec. Sec. Mary Ice; Ron Richmond and Dave Buchner. The committee was assisted by Intl. Rep. Marion Washington and Field Org. Shane Carlin.

UE News - 08/98


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