Members of Local 770 at Hendrickson Suspension won big in recent mid-contract bargaining. These 84 members manufacture medium and heavy-duty mechanical vehicle suspensions and components to the global commercial transportation industry.
In 2010 negotiations, Hendrickson forced union members to accept a two-tiered wage and pension structure by threatening to close the Kendalville operation. Members were able to eliminate the tiered wage structure in the 2016 contract, but even as these essential workers made the parts that kept our supply chain running during the worst of the pandemic, their pension system remained tiered in the 2020 contract.
When the company approached Local 770 leadership in early 2022 about raising wages for entry-level positions, the local organized to get fair raises for everyone, eliminate the long-standing inequity in the pension, and address excessive mandatory overtime. Members circulated petitions demanding fair wage increases for all, wore stickers, and presented their demands to management. When management tried to go around the local leadership, they kept the members informed, and members voted down the raises until their negotiating committee could address the rest of their demands.
“RIP Two-Tier” graphic created by UE Field Organizer Heather Hillenbrand.
“We’ve been at this for a long time,” said committee member Jamie Clark, “People need to remember the union fought for everything we have.” Under the new deal, retroactive to January 1, all employees will receive the same $40 pension payment per year of credited service. For workers hired after 2010, their pension accrual rates will increase by 25 percent going forward effective January 1. Pension credits for all employees will then increase annually — to $40.50 on January 1, 2024, $40.75 on January 1, 2025, and $41.00 on January 1, 2026 — for the first time since 2010.
Committee member Kendall Grobis said “I feel like there’s a path to the future to this place. It’s been a sad 13 years, we’ve been taking the biggest hits, but now I feel some optimism.” The company wanted to hire new employees at a higher wage, but the union insisted on, and won, higher wages for all employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement — not just new hires. Wage rates will increase between approximately 11 and 13 percent this year, based on job classification, and the time period to get to the top rate will be shortened from three years to 18 months. This year’s raise is retroactive to January 1, and workers will receive wage increases of 35 cents on January 1, 2024 and 50 cents on January 1 of 2025 and 2026. The shift premium will also increase from $0.50 to $1.00 for second and third shift employees.
The post-pandemic tightening of the labor market also made for excessive overtime for members, whether they wanted it or not. “We have lives outside of work,” declared Local 770 President Andrew Moore, who is planning his wedding. The union negotiated for more relief from consecutive weeks of mandatory weekday overtime. In the former contract, an employee was guaranteed at least one week without mandatory overtime after 11 consecutive weeks of mandatory overtime. Now, employees will have one week without mandatory overtime after six consecutive weeks of mandatory overtime.
The Local 770 negotiating committee consisted of President Andrew Moore, Vice President Drake Randall, Secretary-Treasurer Tom DeGroot, and committee members Jamie Clark, Rodney Moore, and Kendall Grobis. They were assisted by UE Field Organizers Sean Fulkerson and Heather Hillenbrand.