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‘Hands Off Our
Health Insurance!’
Say UE Local 223 Members


The UE Local 223 negotiating committee caucuses ...

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 committee’s discussion.


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 it.

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

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