After more than three weeks on strike, the members of UE Local 279 at Weir Valves and Controls returned to work today, Tuesday December 16, under the terms of the most recent “last, best and final offer” from the company, and a return to work agreement that was negotiated by the union and company on Monday. The members voted unanimously on Friday, December 12 to return to work under these terms, but at this point no contract is in place yet.
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UE News Updates
At a November 1968 class for stewards and local officers in Latrobe, PA, James Matles, one of UE’s founding officers and then secretary-treasurer, talked about how the youth rebellion of the 1960s was beginning to affect industry and unions. “The young people in the shops are involved in a revolt of their own, which is growing day by day… The young worker doesn’t give a damn for the company’s shop rules and he drives the foremen crazy.
As one year ends and another is about to begin, we wish all our members and your families the best in the holiday season and health, peace and prosperity in the New Year. We also think this is an appropriate time to reflect on where our union and the working class movement have been, and where we’re headed.
Following a month of negotiations and the big October 24 plant gate rally by Northeast Region delegates and Local 234 members, the local on October 29 reached agreement on a new three-year contract with wage increases of 4 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent.
Life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment were significantly improved, and will now equal the employee’s straight time annual earnings, rounded up to the next thousand, with a minimum of $33,000 and a maximum of $50,000. Previously the coverage was $29,000.
UE Local 267, the union of the 350 service, trades and maintenance workers at the University of Vermont (UVM), ratified a new three-year contract in October. Negotiations, which began in March, were tough at times, but the new agreement achieved the key goals of the membership. “We were able to reach a decent contract with the university that included a wage increase and the availability of vacation time to our members. This is an agreement which we can build on in the future,” said Local President David Hamilton.
Members of Local 279 were entering the fourth week of their strike at Weir Valves and Controls, determined to outlast the company. "While it's tough to face the prospect of being on strike through the holidays, our members are prepared for that," said President Kevin McPherson. "We recently had a membership meeting and had mostly bad news to report about the December 4 federal mediation session with the company, and informed them they should probably count on being out on strike for the remainder of the year,” said McPherson, “but the members took it in stride.
On Friday, November 21 the 50 members of UE Local 279 went on strike to maintain their wages and benefits. They work for Weir Valves and Controls where they manufacture a variety of large-scale commercial valves and valves for nuclear power plants. The strike is now entering its third week.
A strike support rally will take place outside the plant on Saturday, December 13, at noon. The Weir Valves plant is located at 29 Old Right Road in Ipswich, MA.
Members of Local 243 gathered on Saturday evening, November 1 at a banquet hall to celebrate their local's 75th anniversary. You can see a photo album of that event on UE's Facebook page. The Spring 2014 issue of the UE NEWS included the following piece on Local 243's distinguished history.
Retired UE International Representative Ed Bloch died in his sleep on Sunday, August 24 at his home near Albany. He was 90 years old. Bloch joined UE in 1950 when he got a job in a UE shop, and was hired onto the UE staff in 1951 in New York City. He spent most of his long career with UE in Upstate New York, assisting UE locals and organizing the unorganized. He retired in October 1984 but continued to assist UE locals, especially Local 332 at GE in Fort Edward.