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UE Solidarity Decisive
In OEM Negotiations


OEM members with District Pres Lambiase Contract ballot box
At right, above, counting the ballots that added up to ratification of the new agreement with OEM. At left, are Local Pres. Rich Drylie, District Pres. John Lambiase and Betty Thurlow, standing; and Isabelle Laurie, Nancy Mayer and Melanie Forget, seated.

The attorney for OEM began negotiations with amalgamated UE Local 683 by threatening workers in the plastics industry shop with a dramatically worsened future: A 24-hour-a-day, holiday-free work environment, with 12- and 16-hour shifts, and $1 an hour reduction in the starting wage.

That’s not how the new contract ratified Nov. 23 reads, however. During the intervening weeks, the culturally diverse OEM workforce united in defense of their conditions, backed by the other members of Local 683 and the other four UE locals in Erie. (Some seven different nationalities and 13 different languages are represented among the UE membership at OEM.)

On Tuesday, Nov. 17 officers and members of UE Locals 506, 618, 692 and 697 congregated at the OEM plant gate, "to let the company know that we in UE stand together," said Local 683 Pres. Rich Drylie. Local 683 members who were changing shifts all joined at the gate to show their opposition to the company’s attack on OEM workers.

Buttons proudly worn by every OEM worker expressed opposition to the 12-hour work day written in a number of languages, including Arabic and the Bosnian members’ Serbo-Croatian. Chants of "No way 12-hour day!" rang out into the day’s cold mist — and caught the company’s attention.

Management personnel came out to remind demonstrators to stay off company property; the police arrived to get traffic moving again. As District Six Pres. John Lambiase remarked, it was all "good fun."

Immediately following the demonstration, the presidents of the UE locals accompanied the UE-OEM negotiating committee to the company attorney’s office for a bargaining session. The attorney became increasingly unsettled as the UE local officers calmly explained why they objected to OEM’s planned mistreatment of its workforce.

"After a great deal of committee work and a few more long and grueling sessions, the seemingly undoable had been done," Local Pres. Drylie reported. The company proposed a settlement including:

An additional paid holiday, increased medical coverage, the right of the practicing Moslem community to be absent from work on two high holy days, an improved discipline procedure and a 33-cent increase.

On Nov. 23 the Local 683 membership at OEM discussed the contract offer and gave it their approval, recognizing the victory won over the 12-hour, 365-day scheme originally proposed by the company.

The UE negotiating committee consisted of Melanie Forget, Mary Simpson, Nancy Mayer, Kadhum Al-Tamini, Cheryl Taylor, Isabelle Laurie and Melody Robison, assisted by Pres. Drylie and District Pres. Lambiase.

UE News - 12/98

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

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