Local 223 Insists On
More than T-Shirts
General Cable workers, members of UE Local 223, have regularly received
awards for outstanding performance. In negotiations this year, they insisted on more than
"lip service and T-shirts" they demanded an outstanding contract, too.
Over the past year, General Cable workers here have won five of the six
awards the company hands out each year to one of its 26 facilities. But in negotiations,
this record of accomplishment was all but completely forgotten as management proposed
major givebacks, including: elimination of the incentive system, which would affect half
the workforce; a two-tier wage structure; a 24-hour, 7-day work schedule.
DISPLAYS OF UNITY
United in their resistance to the company proposals, Local 223 members
made their feelings known during daily shift meetings and by wearing UE T-shirts and
General Cable workers were also determined to drastically reduce their
health insurance co-payment, which at 15 percent of the monthly premium was cutting deeper
and deeper into their paychecks up to 40 cents an hour for some workers.
On the last day of negotiations, Local 223 members shut down their
machines and marched en masse to the second-floor conference room where negotiations were
taking place. Each carried a company T-shirt given earlier in the year. Crowding into the
conference room, workers told the astounded company negotiators that managements
conduct was insulting and that they were ready to do whatever was necessary to get
a good contract.
UE members then threw their T-shirts on the table and left.
'WHATEVER IT TAKES'
The final hours proved to be the most important. The unions caucus
"room" became the picnic tables beneath pine trees in front of the plant, where
shift meetings were regularly held. As the evening went on, the UE team would caucus at
the picnic tables where members would be waiting to hear the latest report and discuss the
committees next move. Despite intermittent drizzle throughout the night, the union
members continued to gather beneath the pines until negotiators reached a tentative
Using charts and graphs, Local Pres. Fred Garcia made a forceful
presentation to the company which stressed workers outstanding performance, the
companys profitability and workers anger at not being rewarded for their
efforts. "It was amazing to us that the company can reward its top bosses with
bonuses of hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet when the workers produce, all we get is
lip service and T-shirts. We were not about to agree to their givebacks," Garcia said
The new three-year agreement contains wage increases of 3 percent year,
bringing the average wage in the third year to more than $13 an hour, and additional
increases for the high-speed bunchers. Health insurance co-payment will be zero until Jan.
1, 1998; $2 single, $4 family co-pays in the second year and $4/$8 co-pays in the third
year. The pension multiplier rises $1 each year, to $17, $18 and $19 a month per years of
service. The shoe allowance is increased.
"The membership was so strong. They can claim total credit for this
victory," said Local Pres. Garcia. "Its days like these that remind you
what is so great about being a member of UE!"
The UE Local 223 negotiating committee consisted of Pres. Garcia, Vice
Pres. Joe Soares, Sec.-Treas. Al Pinheiro, Chief Steward Joe Raposo and Victor Sabino.
They were assisted by Field Org. Peter Knowlton.