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Kenyon College
Local Prevails
After 48-Day Lockout

GAMBIER, Ohio

uen_kenyon.gif (20663 bytes)The months-long struggle by UE Local 712 for a contract with Kenyon College — including a 48-day lockout — gave all parties an education in real unionism and won a decent settlement for college maintenance workers.

The agreement is the second UE contract with the Kenyon but the first for Local 712. Coming into the union through the 1993 affiliation of the National Independent Workers Union with UE, Kenyon College’s skilled-trades workers were part of a multi-state, amalgamated local.

The affiliation perpetuated complaints of poor representation on the part of the NIW business agent who was briefly on the UE staff. The break-up of Local 793-NIW and creation of Local 712 in 1995 gave Kenyon workers a chance to build a real UE local and fight for a satisfactory settlement.

"Basically we were coming from years of having a poor rep who really didn’t guide us or lead us," Local Vice Pres. Ron Jacobs told the UE NEWS. The encouragement and advice of UE Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter " really assured us how we could be strong, how we could carry it out," Jacobs said.

DIFFERENT CONDITIONS

UE Membership
For Locksmith
Locked-up After Lockout

As a result of the Kenyon College lockout and contract struggle, the ranks of Local 712 grew by one proud UE member.

During negotiations, locksmith Dave Pierce asked the UE negotiators if the bargaining unit could be expanded to include his job. A week later, when the college locked out its skilled-trades workers, Pierce became more insistent. "I want to be a part of you guys — I want to sign a card now!" he declared.

Indifferent to management’s reaction, Pierce stood on the UE picket line during break-time and after work.

Back at the table, the college administration strongly resisted the union’s new demand that the locksmith be added to the bargaining unit. But the UE negotiators held tough — and Dave Pierce got his wish!

When negotiations began last spring, both parties understood they were operating under different conditions. The talks began with the employer demanding "rules" that included withholding information from the membership. The UE committee rejected this attempt to control the process; the membership took more interest in the talks. The employer had a short list of proposals; the union came prepared to bargain over tough issues that had been sticking points for many years.

Members wore buttons and stickers and posted "Show Me the Money!" signs in their vehicles and engaged in other activities, including informational picketing. This was a new activity for the new UE local.

After several weeks gains had been made at the table in many of the areas targeted by Local 712: vacations, holidays, the sick leave policy and accumulation of vacation and seniority during sick leave. However, wage increases and the amount of employee insurance contributions did not meet members’ expectations.

Discussion at a lengthy membership meeting on the final day of the contract considered the employer’s "last, best and final offer." Union members unanimously rejected the college’s proposal — and opted to remain on the job.

LOCKED OUT

When workers reported for work the next morning, bosses sent them home, saying, "No contract, no work." Before going home, though, workers filed for unemployment benefits.

The issue was about control, not money, Ron Jacobs stressed. "It was about the aristocrats controlling the servants, that’s what their philosophy has always been."

Reacting with outrage to this betrayal, the community widely supported the locked-out UE members. Throughout the day, townspeople visited the picket line to express their concern, their support and their hope for progress in negotiations. Passers-by stopped to donate to the "Feed Our Families Fund." Community meetings filled halls. In a town of only 400 people, close to 500 signed petitions calling on Kenyon to return the maintenance workers to their jobs while talks continued.

Management responded with the "politics of half-truths," misinformation fed to the faculty and the community to weaken their support for the union, Jacobs pointed out.

In mid-July, the state AFL-CIO decided not to hold its annual, week-long educational program at Kenyon College because of the lockout.

Several negotiating sessions over the summer made little headway. Management bet that union members would crumble after a week on the picket line, beg for their jobs and accept its offer. But workers did not bend. Just days before students were due to return for the fall quarter, signs of change in the employer’s position began to emerge. The Local 712 membership voted to accept an altered final offer, although not by a wide margin.

AGREEMENT RATIFIED

Wages will be increased by 5 percent the first year, 4 percent the second year and 3 percent the third year; the employee insurance contribution will be at the lowest level in Kenyon College.

Kenyon workers gain the first new holiday in 25 years. Local 712 negotiated a signing bonus to offset wages lost due to the lockout.

The three-year agreement calls for two additional sick days (14 a year instead of one each month) and increases the amount of sick time accumulated to a maximum of 130 days. New contract language allows more flexibility in the use of personal days. Eligibility for 25 days vacation is lowered from 20 to 16 years.

The lead man’s pay is increased to $1.25, the night shift premium to 50 cents an hour. After becoming HVAC certified, up to two employees will receive an additional $1.25 an hour. The employer will be required to pay helpers $1 less than the maintenance rate when working in that classification. Employees who use their trucks at work will get a daily reimbursement of $8.50 by the end of the contract. The uniform pants allowance is increased by $5 to $25 per pair.

The agreement doubles, from six to 12 weeks, the amount of time employees on family and medical leave will have their insurance paid.

A REAL UNION WITH A REAL CONTRACT

With their heads held high, having won a measure of respect from the college, Local 712 members met on the morning of Aug. 18, 48 days after having been locked out, and together went to work as a union with new-found strength after their first truly negotiated contract.

"We definitely functioned more like a union," said Local Vice Pres. Ron Jacobs, who described preparation, discussion, involvement, and a growing sense of unity during the long struggle. Kenyon College maintenance workers learned the importance of organization and communication, and "how to be a little more aggressive." Of particular importance, Jacobs said Local 712 now realizes there are allies among the faculty and in the community.

The negotiations were conducted by Local Pres. Keith Jacks, Vice Pres. Ron Jacobs and Dave Kuninger. They were assisted by Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter.

UE News - 11/97


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

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