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Locke Local Prevails
In 44-Day Strike

BALTIMORE, Md.

As long as it takes ... Cardin, Turner, Pridgen
Left: Strikers Marie Montz and Janet Meyers decorate the Christmas tree that symbolized Local 120’s 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 Baltimore’s oldest businesses. Locke is owned by the Japanese corporation NGK.

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 management’s 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 Baltimore’s 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 Turner.

NEAR-UNANIMOUS VOTE

The UE committee rejected the company’s 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 company’s 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 duty.

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 period.

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, respectively.

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.

UE News - 12/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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