After 48-Day Lockout
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 Colleges 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
didnt 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.
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 managements reaction, Pierce
stood on the UE picket line during break-time and after work.
Back at the table, the college administration
strongly resisted the unions 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 employers "last, best and final offer." Union
members unanimously rejected the colleges proposal and opted to remain on the
When workers reported for work the next morning, bosses sent them home,
saying, "No contract, no work." Before going home, though, workers filed for
The issue was about control, not money, Ron Jacobs stressed. "It was
about the aristocrats controlling the servants, thats what their philosophy has
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 employers position began
to emerge. The Local 712 membership voted to accept an altered final offer, although not
by a wide margin.
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 mans 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
"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.