Update, Nov 8: The members of Local 234 ratified a new contract on Tuesday, November 7th, and returned to work today. Read about the contract settlement here »
Members of UE Local 234 who work for Fairbanks Scales hit the picket lines yesterday. The local granted the company a 13-hour extension in the hopes of reaching a settlement, but the company halted negotiations, returning just ten minutes before the deadline with no new proposals, and no response to the union’s proposals.
“They came downstairs and just said ‘we’re done’,” according to Local 234 President Polly Scott. “This company does not respect this union.” Scott says that the company is demanding huge increases in what workers pay for health insurance and concessions on holidays and time off, and is refusing to offer a fair wage increase.
The company’s proposal would immediately more than double what workers pay for health insurance, with even more increases in subsequent years.
“It’s insulting,” says Local 234 member Michellè Hagman. “We deserve a fair contract. We work hard and feel like the company is taking advantage of us.” Hagman noted that while Fairbanks Scales denies it, the local has verified that the company been farming out work. The local will be maintaining the pickets lines 24 hours a day.
“We’re working harder and faster than we ever have,” says Divisional Plant Steward Ryan MacDonald, and yet “they are not even negotiating with us right now.” MacDonald is one of the “UE Three,” three UE leaders who were arrested at the Vermont Statehouse in January of 2015 protesting then-governor Shumlin’s decision to abandon the progress the state had made towards establishing single-payer healthcare.
UE has long maintained that single payer healthcare, popularly known as “Medicare for All,” is the only solution to the U.S. heathcare crisis. UE policy states, “The U.S. employer-based private health insurance system is a disaster. It treats healthcare as a profit making enterprise rather than a fundamental human right,” and points out that under such a system, employers like Fairbanks will seek to lower their healthcare bill by shifting costs onto workers.
UE members “are not going to go back in until they get a contract,” says Scott, “and respect from the company.”