Locke Local Prevails
In 44-Day Strike
Left: Strikers Marie Montz and Janet Meyers
decorate the Christmas tree that symbolized Local 120s intention of staying out as
long as necessary. At right: U.S. Rep. Benjamin Cardin was among the elected officials
encouraged to walk the picket line by the UE Washington office. From left, Cardin, Local
120 Pres. Craige Turner and Vice Pres. Butch Pridgen.
The 175 members of UE Local 120 are back on the job at Locke
Insulators Inc. after their 44-day strike secured an acceptable contract. They voted by a
two-to-one margin on Nov. 13 to settle with Locke, a manufacturer of porcelain insulators
and one of Baltimores oldest businesses. Locke is owned by the Japanese corporation
Earlier this year, Local 120 members united around demands for economic
justice and company respect for their union and prepared for a strike. Given Locke
managements conduct they realized a showdown was inevitable.
As expected, management came to the bargaining table with demands for
concessions in premium pay, vacation pay, shift differential pay, red-circle steps,
longevity increases and medical insurance coverage. Locke wanted to eliminate piecework.
The company also sought to severely restrict long-established language in the grievance
and arbitration clauses as well as officers and stewards union time both in
and out of the shop.
The union committee let the company know these givebacks were unacceptable
and set midnight, Sept. 30 as the deadline for an acceptable offer. The UE negotiators
beat back several givebacks; the company proposed increases in wages and sickness and
accident insurance. By Sept. 30 Locke had offered only 50 cents towards the pension
benefit and little in wages. Givebacks still remained on the table.
The company had rented meeting space at an exclusive marina in
Baltimores Inner Harbor for bargaining; all hell broke lose when dozens of Local 120
members showed up waving signs, blowing horns and chanting in support of the union
committee. "They never did invite us back there," says Local Pres. Craige
The UE committee rejected the companys offer and left shortly after
midnight on Sept. 30 to join their co-workers waiting outside. The following day in a
packed union hall Local 120 members voted almost unanimously to reject the companys
offer and shut down the plant.
By setting up picket lines and the all-important strike committees, Local
120 members signaled to Locke management the seriousness of their intention to get a good
contract. With tents, portable toilets, cooking grills and burn barrels in place outside
the plant gates, Locke workers remained united and reasonably comfortable. The addition of
a Christmas tree underscored their preparation and willingness for a long struggle.
Committees dispensed gas vouchers, public transportation passes and food
on a weekly basis. Many members found jobs to tide them over but still pulled their picket
Baltimore area unions supplied wood, food and financial support. The
National union and UE locals around the country came to the Locke workers
assistance. Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley walked the picket line on more than one
occasion; District One Pres. Connie Spinozzi visited Baltimore to offer her counsel
and solidarity. "We are really grateful for all the support that was showed
throughout UE during our strike," says Local Pres. Turner.
ANOTHER OFFER REJECTED
Negotiating sessions continued, but with little progress. In the fifth
week of the strike, the company began to add money to its offer and withdraw givebacks.
However, Locke still insisted on cuts in premium pay for hours worked prior to normal
shifts and concessions in medical insurance, longevity pay and contract language on
grievances and arbitration and union representation.
Union members rejected the offer 98 to 15. The strike continued.
When bargaining began the following week the UE committee critically
examined the issues that fueled the members dissatisfaction. In intense sessions
over the next two days, the company retreated from its positions.
Longevity pay increased for all workers including those who had been
red-circled. That means up to an additional 25 cents an hour for production workers and 30
cents for craft workers presently eligible or who reach the threshold over the contract
The double-time premium for hours worked prior to shift starts remains in
the contract. Medical insurance deductibles continue at the previous amounts. Workers will
have to forego the Blue Cross/Blue Shield indemnity plan but maintained BS/BC and other
plans with lower employee contributions.
Union members convinced Locke to increase its wage proposal by 2.2 percent
in the final days of the strike. Wages for production workers increase by 3.5 percent the
first year, 2.5 percent the second year and 2.5 the third year; wages for craft workers
increase 5, 2.5 and 2.5 percent. Average wages will advance to $12.16 and $15.96 an hour,
A dollar is added to the pension benefit and $20 to the weekly sickness
and accident benefit.
Locke workers voted 84-39 to accept the settlement.
The Local 120 negotiating committee members were Pres. Craige Turner,
Vice Pres. Clarence "Butch" Pridgen, First Shift Chief Steward Richard
Ervin, Third Shift Chief Steward Larry Dyson and committee members Barry
Rideout and Earl Tyson. They were assisted by UE Intl. Rep. Bruce Klipple.