The bargaining committee for Local 151 was very clear on what it was seeking when bargaining with Aetna Bearing Company began on September 22. But the company’s goals were very different, and over the next two and a half months, the committee and the members fought hard for improvements in wages and benefits.
The local overcame a stiff push from management, which insisted that wages and benefits for the workforce were already too high. Workers showed their solidarity through stickers, shop meetings and direct verbal confrontations with members of management. Two members, including Local 151 President Cliff Hall, were suspended during the heightened tensions in the shop, but the union fought for and won their quick return to work. In the end, workers made progress on all of their major priorities.
A tentative agreement was reached on December 3. Members gathered for lunch in the break room and the bargaining team presented the proposed agreement. After some healthy discussion and clarifying questions, the tentative agreement was ratified by a 90 percent majority.
The first year wage increase of 1 percent was paid retroactive to October 1, 2014 along with a $1,000 signing bonus. On October 1, 2015 workers will receive a 3 percent increase, and another 3 percent raise on October 1, 2016.
Despite company demands to substantially increase the workers’ contributions to the health insurance premiums, the workers were able to protect their current plan, which has a $10 weekly premium contribution for single or family and benefits through an HMO, with relatively low out-of-pocket costs.
The union won a tough battle to extend early retirement health insurance to a younger age. The company will now pay 50 percent of the premium for workers who retire from age 62 to 63½, at which time the regular retiree contribution rate of $10 per week kicks in until age 65.
Dental insurance will now be offered to bargaining unit members the same as salaried employees. The full cost of coverage will be paid for by the employee. Both life insurance and sick pay increase about 4 percent each year, with life insurance reaching $54,000 and sick pay increasing to $650 a week by the third year of the contract.
In order to secure the economic gains across the shop, the union agreed to a job combination involving the electrician and master set-up positions. The combination will not result in a lay-off and the company agreed to pay $2.50 an hour above the higher rate of the two jobs.
The union and the company also agreed to some changes that assist with health and safety in the shop and they agreed to adjust the start time of grievance meetings by 30 minutes.
In the middle of the bargaining sessions, the bargaining committee learned that the owners were planning to sell the company. To date no sale had been announced. “We will fight to ensure every member and their rights are protected if and when a new owner comes in,” said Local President Cliff Hall.
The Local 151 bargaining committee was President Cliff Hall, Chief Steward Manny Walker and Bob Stasiw. UE Western Region President Carl Rosen assisted the local.