After the local turned down an earlier proposal in October, improvements were made in the pact explained strike activist Willie Evans in a December 10 telephone interview.
"We won improvements in pay, in the pension plan, and [Titan Tire CEO Maurice] Taylor agreed to release monies he has been holding since the strike started," Evans said. This includes "vacation pay and 401 (k) money belonging to the members." Mandatory overtime was reduced to 12 hours per week, with every other weekend off--"still too much," Evans noted.
"Union maintenance men went back into the plant today," Evans said, to begin getting the plant into shape to restart. Production workers are to begin returning to work, doing janitorial tasks at janitors' pay for the time being. It is unclear, however, when the plant will actually restart production. After running the plant for several years with scab labor, the company idled it earlier this year. The new contract says that Titan must leave equipment in the plant for 12 months. Workers who are not called back will continue to get strike benefits for the time being.
The new agreement also allows the local to continue with unfair labor practices charges that are still pending against Titan Tire, rather than dropping them, as the earlier contract proposed.
The strike against Titan Tire in Natchez began in September 1998, a few months after workers at Titan's plant in Des Moines, Iowa, walked out. The union members fought what they saw as an attempt by the company to break the union and impose drastic workplace changes. Workers at the Des Moines plant ratified a final agreement in September.
"We're not 100 percent satisfied," said Evans, "but this was about our best shot."
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