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UE Local 204
Members Settle
‘Best Contract in Decades’


Contract Settled!

Overcoming the effects of repeated plant sales and bankruptcy on working conditions and unity, UE Local 204 achieved a come-back contract. Rebuilding worker unity impacted by those changes was the necessary first step.

Local 204 has represented the workers at Haskon for more than 60 years. The rubber sealing plant was first owned by General Electric, followed by Hercules, Conese and the notorious and draconian BTR. BTR milked the factory dry and sold it to local management — which put the company into Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings and closed the plant in April 1995. More than $1 million was looted from the pension fund.

Five months later, Local 204 negotiated a completely new two-year agreement with new owners, Burke Industries of San Jose, Calif.; the contract reopened the plant but contained serious monetary, benefit, and language concessions.

The company was sold yet again earlier this year to the John F. Lehman Group. (Lehman was Secretary of the Navy in the Bush Administration.)

In the five years and two contracts since the plant’s reopening, Haskon workers have given a lot back to reestablish the company. In 2000, the membership looked forward to negotiating a new contract. Business is booming, Local 204 has more than 120 members on two shifts working overtime — twice the number on the job when the company closed in 1995. Unity is improving.

Maintaining unity is difficult within a workforce divided between those with 25 years or more seniority and those who have five years or less. Management became expert at using any available tools to foster differences and sow division amongst the rank and file.


Mindful of the disunity of the last five years, the local leadership made a conscious effort to rebuild the unity that had been a hallmark of UE 204 in years past — and the outcome of negotiations and unity of the members put them a long way toward the rebuilding process.

The local had departmental meetings to identify and discuss issues for negotiations. These were followed by a contract survey; many departments had more meetings and further discussion to "jointly" fill out the surveys. The negotiating committee met frequently to pull the contract apart and figure out ways to restore much of the seniority and job protections that had been lost five years ago. The membership was determined to make this contract negotiations the best in years. The preparations paid off.

The leadership met continually with the members during the lunch break to update them on negotiations’ progress and to get feedback from the members on certain proposals.

Every day the members talked with their supervisors and let the company know that there would be trouble if certain basic issues were not resolved. As a result of the focus, strength, and unity of the membership, this contract regained most of what was lost five years ago.


The most notable and unique feature of the new contract is language which says that if the company does not respond to a grievance within the contractual time period then it automatically agrees to the union’s remedy.

Highlights of the three-year contract include: wage increases of $1.35; an additional $.10 added to shift differential; an additional holiday (Veterans Day); an additional week of vacation (for a total of five weeks) for workers with 25 years or more seniority; and improvements in job bidding, job qualifications, bumping, lay-offs, and recalls.

"Sick time, industrial illness or accident time, and military leave" are now counted as hours worked when computing vacation hours. The new hire progression schedule is reduced from two years to one year. The contract establishes 90 days’ notice of subcontracting of work. One day of funeral leave is provided when a worker is a participant in a co-worker’s funeral.

The Local 204 negotiating committee consisted of Chief Steward Paul Rose, Chief Steward Ronnie Viera, Vice Pres. Chis Matakanski, Rec. Sec. Rich Reynolds, negotiating committee members Lance Sciabatta, Pauline Arguin, Eddie Pina. They were assisted by UE Field Org. Peter Knowlton.

UE News - 11/00

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