A nine-day strike by the more than 250 members of amalgamated UE Local 262
at Cole-Hersee ended on Oct. 15 when the manufacturer of switches and other electrical
equipment agreed to modify requirements for quarterly lump-sum payments.
Confusion and controversy surrounding the companys plans to
eliminate the incentive system and move to cellular manufacturing lay behind the first
strike at Cole-Hersee in more than 20 years. In the most complicated negotiations in
recent memory, two sets of talks on cellular manufacturing and the basic contract
package were conducted simultaneously.
Membership mobilization secured an agreement that will provide 100 percent
pay protection for Cole-Hersee workers as the company changes production methods.
The companys original proposals for replacing incentive pay
in place for the last 50 years with an hourly-rated plan called for the reduction
in the wages of some of the higher earners. This, linked with a company demand that
workers pay an increased share of health insurance costs and the uncertainty of job
security due to the restructuring, led members to question the four-year proposal
presented in the final days of negotiations.
The membership expressed their anger and unease at noisy, well-attended
lunch-time rallies and by wearing union T-shirts and stickers. Workers decided to strike
when the contract expired rather than extend the contract. All sectors of the ethnically
diverse UE membership strongly supported the strike. "People showed up in
numbers," says Shop Chairperson Bill Lynch.
UNITY MOVES MILES
Membership outrage and involvement moved the company "miles"
from its starting point in negotiations, says Lynch, adding that few workers in other
companies changing over to cellular manufacturing have done as well. The four-year
contract gives 100 percent pay protection to incentive workers who move into the cellular
manufacturing lines. This is accomplished by red-circling high earners individual
rates; in addition, affected workers will receive lump sum quarterly payments equal to the
general wage increase.
In the first year covered by the agreement, hourly workers will receive a
quarterly 4 percent lump sum payment; incentive workers will receive a quarterly 4 percent
lump sum payment based on the holiday rate. Cell operators earning under the top cellular
rate ($12.53) will receive 10 cents an hour per quarter; those reaching the top cell rate
would then get lump sums for any remaining quarters. Cell operators at or above the top
rate will receive quarterly lump sums equal to the general increase.
In the second year, hourly workers will receive a 3 percent increase;
incentive workers will receive a 3 percent lump sum based on the holiday rate. As in the
first year, cell operators below the top rate will receive 10 cents per quarter while
those at or above top rate will receive quarterly lump sums equal to the general increase.
The incentive system will be eliminated at the beginning of the third
year. Union and company will enter negotiations on day work rates.
In the third year, hourly workers will receive a 3 percent general
increase. Again, cell operators below the top rate will receive a 10-cent quarterly
increase; those at or above top rate will receive quarterly lump sums.
In the fourth year, hourly workers will receive a 3.5 percent increase.
For cell operators, 3.5 percent will be added to the starting and top rates. The new top
cell rate will be $12.97; cell operators earning less than the top rate will receive
10-cent quarterly increases until they reach the top; those at or above the top rate will
receive quarterly lump sums equal to the general increase.
AND NO "SUMMER WAGE"
The companys proposal that workers pay 50 percent of any increase in
insurance premium costs was removed from the table. Although insurance was canceled during
the strike, the company agreed to pay bills arising from those nine days.
The union also beat back a company proposal to establish a "summer
wage" classification with an inferior wage rate.
The pension multiplier will advance to $15.75 the first year, $16.25 the
second year, $16.75 the third year and $17.75 the fourth year. Sickness and accident
benefits will rise to $235, $245, $255 and $270. Life insurance is increased by $1,000
every year, reaching $16,500 in the fourth year. Second-shift workers will gain a paid
The contract replaces the companys punitive vacation eligibility
rules with a fair, pro-rated system.
The UE negotiating committee consisted of Local 262 Pres. and Shop
Chairperson Bill Lynch, Chief Steward James DeAngelis, Rec Sec.-Treas. Shop Pamela Raye,
Trustee Bill Urban, and committeeperson James Williams. They were assisted by Intl. Rep.
Harry Authelet and Field Organizers Joe Geraneo and Brian Duplisea. Stewards joined the
negotiations by rotation.