Master Lock workers in Milwaukee plan informational picket


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Financially stable company refuses to agree to fair contract

MILWAUKEE — UAW Local 469 members at Master Lock will hold an informational picket near the company’s plant here April 19 at the corner of 32nd and Center streets to encourage management to negotiate a fair contract that rewards their hard work and provides a fair share in the company’s success.

About 350 UAW members at Master Lock are working without a contract while both sides meet with a federal mediator.

The UAW agreement with Master Lock expired March 31, and was extended to April 3. The parties have yet to reach an agreement as the company has demanded the elimination of retirement benefits for active workers, and proposed to shift more health care costs to those workers.

In addition, the company’s offer also continued an unfair two-tier benefits structure and failed to provide adequate wage increases. The two-tier system already denies some workers a pension. Workers overwhelmingly voted down those terms.

At the same time the company made these demands, it notified current retirees they were considering changing or terminating their health and life insurance benefits.

“We want an agreement, and our members have consistently worked with Master Lock to help the company be successful,” said UAW Local 469 President Mike Bink. “We were there during those hard times. We sacrificed. Our members are people who just want to share in the company’s success and be able to retire with dignity. We have earned that. Anything less is simply wrong for workers, wrong for families and wrong for the community.”

Just last year, President Obama visited Master Lock’s Milwaukee facility and congratulated the company and UAW members for bringing some jobs back from China.

“There was a lot of pride in being part of a success that meant jobs came back to the United States – and that the president of the United States came to the plant to say thank you,” said UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInroy.

Master Lock is owned by Fortune Brands Home & Security (FBHS), a publicly traded company which sells a wide range of brand name home and security products.

Since October 2011 to April 13, 2013, FBHS’ stock tripled from below $12 to more than $36 a share. Both Wall Street and the company’s own material indicate that FBHS, and in particular the Security and Storage business segment, are expected to continue doing well with increasing profit and free cash flow.

Master Lock workers have helped create this success with hard, diligent work, quality craftsmanship and, when needed, sacrifices including:

  • In 1997, Local 469 members agreed to a $1 per hour wage cut. · In the 2003 and 2008 contracts, Local 469 accepted two-tier wage and benefit structures.
  • Production workers hired after 2003 make $3 per hour less. The entry-level wage is $11.49 per hour.
  • Workers hired after 2003 pay 25 percent of their monthly health care premium, which amounts to $171 per week for a family plan.
  • Workers hired after 2008 do not participate in the pension plan and are not eligible for retiree health and life benefits.

“I was planning on retiring at age 62. I’ve been working for 40 years as a machine repairman, and I’m starting to feel the pains. I was looking forward to retiring and spending time with family, but now I don’t see that happening,” said Jim Bertagnolli, who works in Master Lock’s machine build repair.

“I have only been there seven years, and everyone told me this was a great company that takes care of its workers. Now I see the opposite. It is all about a balance sheet,” he said.

UAW Local 469 will be engaged in an informational communication only and is not on strike. The local union is not asking anyone to stop working with Master Lock and encourages all workers – including but not limited to delivery drivers – to continue doing business with Master Lock.

Here are details about Friday’s event:

What: An informational picket.

When: Friday, April 19, 1 to 3:30 p.m. A rally is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

Where: Near the Master Lock plant, at the corner of 32nd and Center in Milwaukee.

Who: UAW Local 469 members at Master Lock.

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