Settling a strike in today’s world
On April 17, 2020 UAW Local 1407 ended a 41-day strike against Cummins Filtration in Cookeville, Tennessee by ratifying a contract. Anytime a strike is called there are many issues that make the strike difficult. Not only did they have the normal difficulties, but they also had a devastating and fatal tornado hit their town the week the strike began, a second storm hit that produced another tornado in the area, and then the COVID-19 outbreak. Even with all these obstacles, the membership stood strong and united to show the company they were willing to fight for what they believed they deserved in a contract.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in place, measures were taken to protect the membership as they performed their strike duty each week. The number of members on the picket line were limited, strike duty shift hours were reduced, social distancing, gloves, hand sanitizer and other measures were implemented to keep everyone safe.
The problem of not being able to hold a ratification meeting and vote, as is the norm with most contracts, proved to be challenging. So, the local did some outside of the box thinking to figure out a way to best communicate details with the membership and follow CDC guidelines at the same time. And so, an idea was developed for a three-area drive thru process: First the ratification packet handout, then a question area, and finally a drive thru voting area.
Once a member arrived at the designed locations, there was a one-way lane into the parking lot. First, the members stopped to pick up a ratification packet, which consisted of a voting instruction sheet, a cover letter from the bargaining committee, the contract highlights, a Q & A sheet about the contract negotiated, and an ink pen that they kept (this helped reduce contact).
Second, they were instructed to stay in their vehicle and move to the designated parking area to review the packet. If they had a question, they simply raised their hand outside of their car window and whichever bargaining committee member was available, went to answer any questions. Finally, when they were ready to vote, they were directed to the voting area where an Election Committee member had them sign for a ballot (with the pen they were given), they drove forward to mark their ballot, and then they handed the ballot to another Election Committee member, while the member witnessed it being placed into the ballot box. The Local not only came up with a great process, they also made history with the innovative approach to voting.
With the support they received from Region 8 and the International UAW, this membership was able to stand together and let the company know they would not just lie down and take whatever the company wanted. They sent the message that they were not afraid to stand up for their rights, they rejected what the company threw at them, and they stood in SOLIDARITY! God Bless you, Local 1407!