After settling for small wage increases in their last contract due to a downturn in their company’s business, UE Local 684 members were determined to make up for lost ground in their contract negotiations this year – and they did.
UE Local 684 members work for Electric Materials, formerly known as The Electric Materials Company (TEMCO). Electric Materials, a subsidiary of United Stars, Inc., manufactures custom copper products for the electrical equipment industry.
Despite increased sales and a windfall from the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017, which fattened its bottom line, the company proposed a pitiful wage proposal with no wage increase in the first year and only small increases in the next four years of a five-year agreement. The company’s wage proposal also had smaller wage increases for lower-coded jobs.
The local’s negotiating committee wasn’t buying the company’s divide-and-conquer wage proposal and pushed back hard at the negotiating table. During the last day of negotiations, the company increased its wage proposal to 2 percent in the first year, 2.75 percent in the second year and 2.5 percent in each of the remaining three years. The company’s wage proposal also included a $1,500.00 ratification bonus.
The new agreement, which was ratified by the members on October 10, has numerous other improvements – both economic and non-economic.
The local was able to maintain the status quo on health insurance throughout the life of the agreement. During the last contract negotiations, the local went out on its own to find health insurance coverage instead of agreeing to the company’s health insurance proposal. The company agreed to pay its premium share based on the percentage increase of the health insurance costs of the non-bargaining unit employees. Working with its health insurance provider, the local estimated it saved the company over $500,000 compared to what the company would have paid if the local’s members had stayed on the company’s insurance plan. The local’s health insurance committee works with the insurance provider each year on the plan design in order to hold down costs. The company agreed to increase its share of the premiums 8% each year of the new agreement.
The new agreement also increases short term disability benefits, life insurance benefits and safety shoe reimbursements. An employee who retires or dies will now be paid for any unused paid personal absences and floating holidays in addition to profit sharing on a pro-rated basis.
The new agreement also includes new-hire orientation language and an exemption under the contract’s drug and alcohol testing provision for medical marijuana prescribed by a licensed medical provider.
The most contentious issue besides wages was the company’s “number one bargaining goal” of reorganizing and combining the plant’s various departments. The company said that it wanted to create “paths of progression” in each department so that employees could advance up the higher codes in each department through on-the-job training. In exchange for agreeing to these new “progression paths,” the company agreed to greatly shorten the progression time it takes to get to the full rate of pay for each of the codes — that progression time will now range from six months to two years depending on the code. In the previous contract it could take up to five years to reach the full rate of pay for the higher codes.
“I want to thank the members of the negotiating committee, who put in a lot of hard work to reach an agreement with the company,” said Local 684 President Jason Lanich. “I think this is one of the best contracts our local ever negotiated with the company. It provides substantial wage increases and other improvements for our members.”
The UE Local 684 negotiating committee included Jason Lanich, president; Jake McIntosh, financial secretary; Steve Adkins, chief steward; and Caleb Farrell, Joe Miller and Mike Doyle, at-large negotiating committee members. They were assisted by International Representative John Thompson.