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Local 777 Gains
In First Contract
Since UE Affiliation

SOLON, Ohio

  Local 777 members at contract meeting
Local 777 members listen attentively to explaination of provisions of tentative agreement.

Two years after voting to affiliate their Independent Cutting Tool Union with UE, workers at Cleveland Twist Drill have ratified their first contract as members of UE Local 777-ICTU. The new three-year agreement improves wages by 4, 3 and 3 percent, and provides other gains. More important, the members reversed a trend of concessions in recent years, and achieved a contract with only improvements.

The new contract adds a week of vacation, providing five weeks to workers with 25 years service. Starting next year, holidays will be scheduled to provide a paid Christmas shutdown. Laid-off workers will keep medical and dental benefits for three months, in addition to the month when the layoff occurs. Sickness and accident benefits increase by $15 a year from the old rate of $245, to $290 per week in the third year.

Employees’ share of medical and dental costs — an area in which the local suffered painful setbacks in past negotiations — will be frozen at current levels through the end of 1999. In the following two years, any increase in premiums will be borne 80 percent by the company, 20 percent by the employee, but the increase in workers’ contribution is "capped" at no more than $5 family, $2.50 single.

In an emotional fight for a membership that is predominantly high in seniority, the local won back the retiree health insurance it had lost in 1995. Workers who retire at 62 or older with 15 years service will be eligible for continued coverage.

STRENGTHENING THE UNION

New language improves union representation rights by removing the requirement of "foreman approval" for officers and stewards to take union time, and equalizes the number of company and union representatives in Step 2 grievance meetings. (The company had a one-person advantage in the old contract.) The union gains the right to have a UE field representative in Step 3 and other key meetings, and to move union officers to first shift if needed for better functioning of the local.

Improved "no discrimination" language bars discrimination because of union membership, holding union office, marital status, disability, and against Vietnam veterans or disabled veterans.

Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were incorporated into seniority language, and coverage by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was added to the contract.

The local turned back company efforts to take away shift preference bumps; to impose a more intrusive substance abuse policy and a vaguely-worded attendance policy that would have given management more leeway to go after workers. On the effective date of the new contract, all workers start with a "clean slate" under the existing attendance policy.

While the old contract’s expiration date was June 30, agreement wasn’t reached until July 14, with membership ratification one week later. In response to an inadequate "final offer" from the company, a July 28 membership meeting voted unanimously to back the negotiating committee in seeking more. The company stalled for several days — apparently hoping for cracks in the members’ unity — but eventually "found" money that wasn’t there earlier to meet some key union demands.

The Local 777 negotiating committee consisted of Pres. Konrad Huffnagel, Vice Pres. Lenny Feckner, Sec. Ron Navratil and Treas. Randy Murray. They were assisted by Field Org. Al Hart.

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New Local Takes
Stand for Jobs,
Opposes Blunders
By Management

 

UE cutting tool conference delegates

 

UE delegates to this year’s Cutting Tool Conference, July 16-19 in Greensburg, Pa. From left, Local 777 Treas. Randy Murray and Vice Pres. Lenny Feckner, Local 274 Greenfield Tap & Die Shop Chair Dick Schatz, Local 777 Treas. Ron Navratil, Local 274 Pres. Gerry LaValley and Local 777 Pres. Konrad Huffnagel. As an indication of consolidation in the cutting tool industry, all local unions at this year’s Conference represent plants purchased in recent years by Greenfield Industries, and then acquired last year by Kennametal, Inc. Besides discussing problems and strategies in their plants, delegates toured host USWA Local 8547’s Carbidie plant in Irwin, Pa. and Kennametal’s research and development center in nearby Latrobe.

Negotiations at Cleveland Twist Drill this year were made more difficult by the company’s contention that the plant has been losing money for the past three years — even though company negotiators freely admitted that management mistakes were the major cause of the plant’s poor performance.

The plant manager attended a session to announce his request to the parent company for investment to restore the proper tool hardening process, bring back some machines that the company had foolishly removed months earlier, and purchase newer machines. While the union has pushed for and would welcome this investment, UE Local 777 Pres. Konrad Huffnagel repeatedly told the company, "You need to invest in the people," if the plant’s problems are to be corrected.

Over the past two decades and under successive corporate owners, Cleveland Twist Drill (CTD) slipped from its leading position in the cutting tool industry. Workers suffered the consequences as management downsized the workforce and forced a series of concession-filled contracts on the ICTU, which formerly had the top wages and benefits in the industry.

In 1994 Cleveland Twist Drill was purchased by Georgia-based Greenfield Industries, which was becoming a major force in the cutting tool industry through acquisitions. (Greenfield Tap and Die, whose workers are members of UE Local 274, was already owned by Greenfield Industries.) A year later, Greenfield closed the big CTD plant on Cleveland’s East Side and moved to a suburban industrial park. But the move came only after contract negotiations in which Greenfield negotiators threatened to move out of the state if the union didn’t grant concessions.

Management blunders only continued with the move to the new plant — the worst being the decision to scrap the salt bath hardening system that had been a key to CTD’s success, and replace it with a vacuum furnace heat treat. Workers told the company that this system would not work for hardening drills — and it didn’t. Two years and countless scrapped tools later, the company abandoned the vacuum furnace and started subcontracting the heat treat work to unreliable outside shops. Quality problems and production delays continued, as the union continued to hammer the company with the need to put the right heat treat in the Solon plant, and let highly-skilled union members do the job right.

Continued setbacks after the takeover by Greenfield Industries convinced CTD workers that they, too needed to be part of a larger organization, and led to the decision to affiliate with UE. Last year, Greenfield Industries itself was acquired by a bigger corporation, Kennametal, Inc. of Latrobe, Pa.

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UE News - 10/98


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