On October 1, members of UE Local 140 overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year agreement with Locke Insulators, Inc. The contract brings pay increases of 2.25 percent, 2.5 and 2.5, as well as a ratification bonus of $500 for each member. The union also won classification upgrades for the extrusion department, a pay upgrade of $1.14 for the affected workers. There were no major changes in healthcare.
The union also achieved a number of contract language improvements. With the power generation industry, which Locke supplies, in a global recession, and with the company facing financial problems, members were concerned that the plant could be sold. So the union pushed for adding a successor clause that would require any new owner to recognize the union. The company fought hard against this provision, but the union fought harder and won.
New language requires management to meet twice a month with union productivity process leaders to review productivity data. This will help prevent unjust discipline of union members for productivity problems caused by factors beyond their control.
Another new contract clause on time clocks will help prevent unjust discipline of workers accused of failing to punch in or out. Since punching in is now electronic with no paper trail of physical time cards, some supervisors have manipulated records to go after certain workers. A new inclement weather policy added to the contract will prevent the company from giving worker absenteeism points for failing to get to work during a government-declared weather emergency.
Other new language will allow works to use up to five vacation days per year to cover medical absences. Also, vacation pay will be compensated in a separate check to prevent bumping members into a higher tax bracket.
The union also added a new annual maintenance evaluation process. This will address the issue of former production workers who have bid into maintenance jobs, but are stuck at the lowest pay rates in maintenance. It follows from the union’s goals of getting Locke to promote from within and to increase diversity in skilled trades.
Local 120 enjoyed community support in these negotiations. UE’s reputation, particularly in Baltimore’s African-American community, was enhanced by the union’s 74th National Convention in 2015, which included a march on Baltimore City Hall, with community groups and other unions, in support of local labor struggles in Baltimore and Black Lives Matter, in the wake of the death of Freddy Grey in police custody. Community leader Nnamdi Scott, who is running as an independent Ujima Peoples Party candidate for city council on a strong working class platform, addressed a local membership meeting in support of the union’s contract fight. The Local 120 executive board bargaining committee reached out to the other Baltimore UE members in Local 121, and to working class community organizations like the UPP. Since Locke is owned by the Japanese corporation NGK, so the local also contacted UE’s Japanese labor ally Zenroren.
The Local 120 bargaining committee consisted of President James Cook, Vice President Dante Rogers, Recording Secretary Tim Lumber, Chief Steward Richard Ervin, and Second Shift Chief Steward Mike Rogers. They were assisted by UE Field Organizer Dennis Orton.