‘Hands Off Our
Say UE Local 223 Members
The UE Local 223 negotiating committee caucuses with General
Cable workers during the final hours of negotiations by the UE local’s ‘Freedom
Park’ — the picnic table and pine tree beside the company parking lot.
Local 223 members at General Cable were ready for
negotiations. Pres. Fred Garcia had his charts and graphs and the
members knew what they wanted and they were united to get there. This year,
issues were relatively simple: Maintain the same insurance plan and co-pays,
increase the pension and get a decent wage increase.
This plant has wire drawing and twisting operations and
manufactures plastic compound. Despite company awards galore, record high
levels of efficiency, productivity, and low levels of lost time accidents,
downtime, and turn-around-time, the company attempted to portray the Taunton
plant as "losing money". The so-called "losses" were due
to the price rise in petroleum which directly affects the price of plastic
resin that the Taunton facility has to eat, since it cannot pass the cost onto
the other General Cable plants that it feeds.
Armed with a vocal and determined membership and an armful of
charts, UE Local 223 asserted its will on the employer to improve the lives of
the members. Conducting their ritual of daily, and sometimes multi-daily,
shift meetings the UE negotiating team kept the members up-to-date and
prepared. During each caucus, held at the picnic table underneath the pine
trees, members would come by to listen and join in the union negotiating
Union members sported stickers highlighting the major issues
of the negotiations. With only two days left to contract expiration, workers
became concerned that the company wasn’t listening all that clearly, since
very regressive health insurance proposals remained on the table. That next
morning, management found the union committee at the factory... and no one
else. The members had decided to stay home. The company quickly got the
picture and pulled back from its regressive health insurance position —
eventually keeping the health insurance plan right where the membership wanted
Twenty-two hours of negotiations the final day and night
reached an agreement achieving all of the members’ main goals.
The three-year contract contains wage increases of 4 percent,
3.5 percent and 4 percent; an additional 13 weeks (up to 39 weeks) of sickness
and accident insurance when a worker is totally incapacitated; five days of
funeral leave for spouse, child and step-child; increases to the dental
insurance, and a $1 per year increase to the pension benefit, which rises to
$20, $21 and $22.
The union committee consisted of Pres. Fred Garcia, Chief
Steward Joe Raposo, Vice Pres. Joe Soares, and negotiating team
members Ray Rose and Carlos Sabino. They were assisted by Field
Org. Peter Knowlton.
UE News - 11/00