Rank-and-File Activity Critical in Difficult Negotiations —
Local 1111 Settles
What union bargainers described as "the most difficult negotiation circumstances in memory" came to a successful
conclusion Sunday, Aug. 4 when UE Local 1111 members voted at a special meeting to approve a new collective bargaining agreement
negotiated with Rockwell Automation/Allen-Bradley.
Rank-and-file activity gave voice to workers’ concerns and forced management to pay attention. "The many extra
activities this time made a critical difference in getting an acceptable settlement," the bargaining committee said.
The package features wage increases, an extra week of vacation for those with six years of service, an increase in the
pension supplement for those retiring with 95 age/service points and various pension and benefit enhancements encouraging workers to
retire at their earliest opportunity.
"This is a groundbreaking agreement in its protection of jobs and pensions," says UE District 11 Pres. Carl
Rosen, who took part in the negotiations. "The contract provides sustained protection against layoffs." Senior workers will
be offered retirement rather than layoff, he points out.
The cost of healthcare, including dental insurance, will increase — but not to the degree for which the company had
pressed throughout negotiations. Rockwell used the state of the economy, slumped sales, a corporate-wide wage freeze and threats to move
fabrication work to China as leverage to attack workers’ health care and wages.
"We faced arguably the most difficult negotiation circumstances in memory," said the UE committee. "The
company was dead set on moving hundreds of jobs, and potentially laying off hundreds, even while over 70 high-seniority employees are
According to the committee, "The membership was clear that these negotiations must protect our jobs and pensions.
Twenty-five year employees must be able to make it to a decent retirement, and there must be a future here for less senior
As a result of negotiations, the committee said, "we have achieved some extremely important protections for pensions
and believe we now have the mechanisms in place that minimize the chance of layoffs. Job loss, while substantial will come much slower
than in 1999, and will be matched with attrition through retirement. The pensions of 25-year employees are protected against layoffs, and
before the company can lay off, it must offer senior employees a chance to leave the plant early with a generous package."
No layoffs will occur during the contract until all workers who have 93 points are offered two thirds of their pay to not
come to work. When these workers reach their normal 95 point dates, they could take a normal retirement with reconstruction of their wages
as if they had been working all along.
The number of jobs to leave the bargaining unit has been reduced to no more than 288, which is the number of employees who
will have reached 95 points by the end of the contract. The company intends to remove the jobs at the rate of attrition.
Twenty-five-year employees either currently laid off, or due to be as a result of future job movement, will be credited
with both age and service points while on layoff, until 95 points are reached and full retirement can begin. For pension calculation they
will be given additional years of service as if working through July 31, 2005.
Employees reaching 95 points can retire the same month and have their pension and vacation calculated as if they worked
through December. Previously, workers who reached 95 points would continue working to retain benefits. Now they will keep their active
employee health package through the end of the year. Employees with 95 points now or who will reach 95 points by Dec. 31, 2002 will be
able to keep their active employee health package for all of 2003.
As a permanent contract change, employees displaced from their jobs for any reason will maintain 100 percent of their rate
for three years, then 90 percent thereafter. A worker will lose maintenance of rate if she or he accepts a department posting which pays
less than the classification the employee currently holds unless a shift change is involved.
The contract calls for a $300 payment on Aug. 9, a 3.5 percent increase in 2003 and a 3 percent increase in 2004. A
fifty-cent skilled trades adjustment takes effect Jan. 5, 2003. The cost-of-living adjustment will be applied before any general wage
increases. Workers awarded a job will be paid the full job rate from the beginning, an improvement from the 95 percent starting rate.
The starting rate of pay for all apprentices will be the greater of either 65 percent of the pay rate for the respective
graduation classification or 90 percent of an employee’s existing rate. The graduation bonus is increased by $200 to $1,200.
The pension supplement is increased by $100 to $800.
Basic, company-paid life insurance increases by $4,000 to $25,000.
The vacation plan is improved to provide workers with six years’ seniority three weeks of vacation. Sick and personal
days are expanded. Foster children, step-mother and step-father are added to terms of bereavement leave.
Four hours of overtime pay will be provided to any worker whose weekend overtime is canceled after the end of a previous
shift. The contract also increases the safety shoe allowance, tuition reimbursement, union leave and the lunch coupon.
A study commissioned by Local 1111 revealed that Rockwell’s plans to move more than 500 jobs would cause an additional
670 Milwaukee area workers to lose their jobs due to the ripple effect. Governmental bodies would lose about $17 million a year in tax
revenue. Laid-off workers would see their incomes cut by 30 percent on average and would be more likely to fall victim to heart attacks,
high blood pressure and depression.
At a press conference, Ken Blum, the lead researcher on the report prepared by the Center for Labor and Community
Research, pointed out that Rockwell has moved more than 1,200 manufacturing jobs since purchasing Allen-Bradley and this has resulted in a
total of some 2,900 jobs lost to the Milwaukee area, and lost tax revenue totaling $41 million annually.
Nadine Paul, a laid-off Local 1111 member, described her frustration both at trying to find a decent job and the loss
of work despite the many projects she worked on to help make the plant more productive.
Local 1111 Pres. Bob Rudek, who chaired the press conference, stressed that Rockwell has an obligation to get high
seniority employees through to a decent retirement and ensure a future for less senior employees. He pointed out that the hard work by
Local 1111 members over the years built the company and made Allen-Bradley a respected name in the industry.
The press conference received extensive coverage.
Hundreds of Local 1111 members walked picket lines during their lunch breaks to underscore workers’ demand for secure
jobs and livelihoods and a fair contract. On July 22, their numbers were swelled by retirees, labor, political and community activists. John
Goldstein, president of the Milwaukee County Labor Council, Teamsters Local 200 Secretary-Treasurer Frank Busalacchi and
President Sebastian Busalacchi pledged their organizations’ support. Bob Clark, UE international representative and a
former Allen-Bradley worker and UE national officer, spoke on behalf of the National union.
Several UE locals were present at the July 22 rally, among them Local 1107 members who had driven more than 150 miles from
Necedah, Wisc. A youthful contingent from the new Jobs with Justice chapter in Milwaukee added spirit to the event. Machinists union
members from Rockwell’s Tool Room joined their UE sisters and brothers on the line. Alderman Angel Sanchez promised to stand with
Local 1111 to the finish. Barbara Lawton, candidate for lieutenant governor, spoke eloquently of the urgent need to fight back
against the corporations. A representative of U.S. Rep. Gerald Kleczka read a statement in which the Congressman declared, "It
is time for American corporations to show some of the same renewed patriotism that we have seen from our country’s workers. I call upon
Rockwell/Allen-Bradley to lead the way to show the country that they are responsible citizens."
The Local 1111 bargaining committee consists of Pres. Bob Rudek, Ken Lochte, Paul Skornia, John Kaczanowski, Tom
Michalski, Mark Muszynski and Rich Blaszczynski.
(An abridged version of this story was posted earlier this year in UE News Update).