The lockout began Nov. 28 after workers rejected 606 to 305 the company’s “last, best and final offer.”
The company had demanded a wage scale with undisclosed piece rates and productivity standards. This was removed from the new proposal and replaced with “minimum performance levels” ranging from 80 to 85 percent of the average. The contract also dropped a proposed five-tier classification system.
But lower pay and benefits for new hires was retained. Workers hired after Jan. 1, 2009, have a starting wage of 70 percent of pay of other workers and cap out at 85 percent of the previous pay scale. New hires receive lump sum bonuses of $1,200 in 2012 and 2013 and hourly wage increases totaling 45 cents over the following three years. New hires start out at $13 per hour.
Instead of a wage increase, workers hired before 2009 receive three annual bonuses of $800, and undefined lump sums in the final two years.
Defined benefit pensions for workers hired before 2009 are maintained at the previous level. Newer workers will only get individual 401(k) retirement accounts.
“We achieved some major goals, but we were disappointed that we didn’t achieve everything,” Rod Nelson, president of USW Local 207L, told the Militant. “We got the top pay levels of new hires raised from 80 to 85 percent. We all stood together and very strongly, but there are some hurt people who are pretty upset.”
During the lockout the local reached out to the community and received widespread support. They organized two rallies of hundreds. During the last weeks union members spoke to college classes and joined sugar workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar in a Journey for Justice solidarity caravan.
On Jan. 26, members of USW Local 752L at Cooper Tire in Texarkana, Ark., approved a contract and on Feb. 16 a new four-year agreement was ratified by USW Local 556L in Clarksdale, Miss. Two days later, truck drivers who are members of Teamsters Local 20 in Findlay also ratified a contract with Cooper Tire.
“We could have gotten more,” said Christina DeLaRosa, a utility worker with 20 years in the plant. “It’s going to be harder to get equality now.”
“I voted yes,” said Ron Shepherd, a tire builder for 11 years at the plant. “Maybe it’s not the best thing for the long term but you have to take care of ‘now’ and look out for your family. It’s hard to find a decent job these days.”
“We got the legs knocked out from under us when all the other plants are signing,” Doug Bolmer, who has worked at Cooper Tire for 23 years, told the Militant. “If we were all out it would make a hell of a difference. Under the circumstances, it is the best we can get. We stuck together and got a better contract than what we had started with.”
Laura Anderson contributed to this article.
Caravan builds support for locked-out workers
Kicks off with sugar workers’ rally in Minn.far
Port workers in New Zealand strike over new ‘labor model’
‘We need to enforce safety codes’ on the docks
On the Picket Line
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