UE Local 1160 members at Roth Pump manufacture pumps for oil rigs, chemical plants, and refineries. On November 18, those members ratified a new four-year agreement. After a period of relatively little activity, members elected a new executive board and decided to send a message to management that they were done with concessionary bargaining and would not settle for a contract unless it addressed rising inflation, healthcare, increased vacation, and safety.
Members participated in an escalating series of solidarity actions showing their support with union shirts and stickers that demonstrated they were united behind their bargaining team. After weeks of contentious bargaining where management told the committee to “suck it up” and pay for their own glasses, and walked out of negotiations in response to workers’ demand for a dental and vision plan, management finally got the message. The members won a new dental and vision plan for all workers, and created a new stipend for prescription safety glasses.
“I don’t know why we had to fight so hard for basic dental and vision, but we sure did,” said Local 1160 Treasurer Kalin Thompson. “If the members had not mobilized around the issue there is no way Roth Pump would have backed down. The COLA adjustments we won will make sure our wages are not eaten up by out-of-control inflation every year. Workers in this country have been on defense for so long it feels great to be on the attack and winning!”
To combat rising inflation members received a 6.5 percent wage increase at ratification, with a new Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) in years two, three and four of the contract. The new COLA includes a 2.5 percent floor with no cap. For members this means if inflation is zero percent next year, they will receive a 2.5 percent increase; if inflation reaches ten percent then members will receive a 10 percent increase in pay.
Paid leave was a priority for all members and the local was able to secure additional paid vacation, increased personal days, and improvements to short term disability which includes 13 weeks of paid parental leave.
For years there has been an ongoing dispute with the employer over workers’ access to a radio while working. In the past members had been able to listen to the radio at a reasonable volume, until a confrontation with the owner’s son led to the radio being removed. This contract, the bargaining team was able to secure new language that allows workers to listen to one OSHA-compliant earbud while working to listen to music, or whatever audio they want.
“We made a lot of headway on economics in this contract, but to be honest, the improvements we made to the quality of work, like the ability to listen to music or an audiobook, while we work were just as important,” said Vice President Ashlee Vandusseldorp. “Building power at work allows us to live better, but it also gives us more power over our lives at work. We spend so much time at work, a victory like this is more than symbolic, it really improves our quality of life.”
The Local 1160 bargaining team consisted of President Jason Frere, Vice President Ashlee Vandusseldorp, and Treaurer Kalin Thompson. They were assisted by Field Organizer Sean Fulkerson.