The unions who negotiate with GE Appliances Factory Services as the Joint Bargaining Committee (JBC) — UE, IBEW, IAM and UA — settled a new four-year national contract in May. UE Locals 270, 335 and 707 are members of the JBC. These locals’ members are highly skilled technicians who repair home appliances.
The JBC unions negotiate jointly with GE Appliances Factory Services on behalf of their 300 members around the U.S. The four national unions have separate contracts, but with the same terms and conditions, ensuring uniform wages and working conditions for their members. The negotiations took place in Louisville, KY, home of GE Appliances.
Going into contract negotiations, the four unions surveyed their members and held Zoom meetings to hammer out contract demands. The number one issue for the JBC members was getting general wage increases and eliminating the wage gap between “legacy” employees and “competitive wage” employees.
While the company’s negotiators claimed at the start of negotiations that they also wanted to eliminate the wage gap between legacy and competitive wage employees (the company was having a hard time hiring and retaining new employees), the company’s proposals to close the gap came at the expense of legacy employees not getting general wage increases. The unions held firm throughout the negotiations that legacy employees also had to have general wage increases, while closing the wage gap.
In the end, the company agreed to give legacy employees a six percent wage increase and two lump sum payments totaling $5,000 over the course of the agreement. The wage gap will close to 94 percent with competitive wage employees receiving a 5 percent wage increase each year of the contract.
“At the beginning of negotiations our number one concern was to close the gap between the legacy and competitive wage pay scales,” said UE Local 335 President Scott Schindler. “We were all ecstatic to see that by the end of the new contract the competitive wage scale will be closed to 94 percent of what the legacy wage scale is.”
The company also proposed take-aways in drive time (the time it takes for a tech to get to their first call and the time it takes them to get home after their last call), paid sick and personal time, minimum show-up pay for overtime, and scheduling vacations and floating holidays.
The JBC unions told the company’s negotiators they had absolutely no interest in negotiating concessions and give backs. The company eventually withdrew all of their concession demands in order to reach an agreement.
Another contentious issue during negotiations was healthcare benefits costs. GE Appliances is self-insured. Factory service techs are included in a larger pool that includes more than 4,000 employees at GE Appliance Park in Louisville. The union that represents workers at Appliance Park had agreed to allow employee premium increases of up to 30 percent in 2024. The company insisted that the JBC union members agree to the same 30 percent cap.
The JBC negotiating committee was able to get the company to lower the 30 percent cap to 18 percent in 2024. In 2023, there will be no increase in employee premiums or changes to the plan design. In 2025 there is a five percent cap and in 2026 a six percent cap on increases.
Throughout the negotiations the JBC unions pressed the company to join the unions in supporting Medicare for All in order to get healthcare benefits “off the negotiating table.” The techs on the negotiating committee filled out the UE healthcare cost calculator to determine the percentage of their wages that go to pay for their healthcare benefits, with one tech’s percentage coming in at over 15 percent.
While the JBC negotiating committee wasn’t able to get the company to come out in support Medicare for All, they were able to get the company to agree to contract language that commits the company to negotiate with the JBC unions over any impact of Medicare for All on their members if it is enacted during the agreement.
“By the end of the process, we were able to achieve some of our objectives and I think we arrived at a reasonable contract for our members,” said UE Local 270 President Joe Parisi. “I believe the company did not get everything they were asking for. The JBC unions fought back the largest concessions and we were able to retain many benefits the company wanted to eliminate.”
In the negotiations, UE was represented by Parisi, who was assisted by UE International Representative John Thompson.