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Local 223 Insists On
More than T-Shirts

TAUNTON, Mass.

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 buttons.

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 management’s 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 union’s 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 committee’s next move. Despite intermittent drizzle throughout the night, the union members continued to gather beneath the pines until negotiators reached a tentative agreement.

Using charts and graphs, Local Pres. Fred Garcia made a forceful presentation to the company which stressed workers’ outstanding performance, the company’s 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 later.

NEW CONTRACT

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. "It’s 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.

UE News - 11/97


Home -> UE News -> 1997 Archives -> Article

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