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Local 234 Unity Crucial
In Fairbanks Negotiations


‘Solidarity Forever’ at Local 234 ...
Local 234 members sing ‘Solidarity Forever’ as they march to a noon-time rally near the end of negotiations. Fairbanks workers marched right into the plant; their singing echoed through the hallway.

Insurance and pensions emerged as major issues in recently concluded negotiations between UE Local 234 and Fairbanks Scales. The intervention of a united membership proved crucial to a successful outcome.

Local 234 negotiates two contracts, for the factory and office bargaining units. Fairbanks Scales is a long-established and well-known manufacturer of scales and balances.

With a 56 percent increase in insurance premiums, the company looked to change insurance plans. The UE committee researched plans and had an insurance broker make a presentation to Fairbanks management.

New Medical Plan

The union agreed to a company proposal for a new plan that offers 100 percent coverage of office visits and a $15 co-pay, an out-of-pocket maximum of $750, individual, and $1,500, family, after the $250 deductible. A "reasonable and customary" schedule replaces the outdated dollar schedule of benefits. The new plan also includes a prescription drug card and coverage of home health visits. The plan allows for free choice of health care providers within a preferred provider list.

Members’ contributions change slightly and will remain the same for the term of the agreement.

Union and management were sharply divided over pension improvements. In the end, Local 234 secured increases in the multiplier from $16.50 to $17 in the first year and to $17.25 in the second year. In addition, the union eliminated the cost reduction charged to the retirees’ pension benefit for the election of the pre-retirement spouse’s benefit.

Life insurance advances by $2,000 to $25,000. Accidental death and dismemberment increases by $1,000 in each year, from $16,000 to $20,000. In these negotiations, Local 234 succeeded in eliminating vestiges of an old two-tier system in the accident and sickness benefit; now A&S applies equally to all labor grades. The A&S benefit is increased to $225 a week.

Wage and Benefit Gains

Wages are improved by 35 cents the first year, 3 percent the second year and 2.5 percent the third year.

The union eliminated one progression step for the three lowest labor grades in each unit; new employees will reach the top of the grade three months earlier. Two jobs are upgraded, with a wage increase of 45 cents.

The contract establishes a new eye-glass program with allowances of $60, $80 and $90, depending upon which type of glasses are needed. Step-father and step-mother are added to the immediate family for five days’ bereavement leave.

Local 234 members remained united throughout negotiations and demonstrated their concern over the major issues. Fifteen to 25 members sat in negotiations as observers right up to the last hours of negotiations. Their strength, support for the committee and solidarity became crucial in securing a fair contract covering the next three years.

The Local 234 committee consisted of Pres. Bill Gould, Vice Pres. Reg Haselton, Chief Steward Bob South, Divisional Steward Mechanical John Charron, Divisional Steward Electronics Tonya Brown, Chief Steward Office Polly Scott, and Office committee member Sharon Frechette. They were assisted by Field Org. Rachel Clough.

UE News - 12/99

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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