Together We Win: The Devil in the Details
Mack Truck members, like these second-shift workers in Macungie, Pennsylvania, who recently participated in an event to support local veterans, gained job protection, raises and other improvements in the recently ratified contract.
Mack Contract Halts Company’s Attempt to Move Work, Kills Two Tier
Often it’s difficult to assess a company’s true intentions when negotiations begin. In the latest round of bargaining at Mack Trucks, local negotiators couldn’t figure out why the company wanted to eliminate a provision in the contract that prevented it from opening a new plant without the agreement of the UAW.
They asked the company pointed questions about its reasons because they knew the heavy truck market didn’t justify opening a new plant.
“They couldn’t answer any of our questions about why they wanted it,” said Ed Balukas, chairman of the UAW Mack National Negotiating Committee and the president of Local 677 in Macungie, Pennsylvania.
While local negotiators were not getting answers, information requests made by the International at the direction of Vice President Norwood Jewell, director of the UAW Heavy Trucks Department, and by Region 9 Director Terry Dittes and Region 8 Director Ray Curry, revealed the company’s true intentions: It wanted to eventually build a new plant on the West Coast, with the very real possibility of threatening job security in Macungie and elsewhere.
“The three of them were critical in it from the beginning,” said Balukas, who noted that the provision requiring the UAW’s approval on a new plant was an open question until the last day of negotiations. “Their help was critical in maintaining our job security.”
Members approved the three-year master contract, along with local agreements, in October. Members maintained their job security, eliminated the second-tier wage schedule, negotiated wage and pension increases, won a $2,000 lump sum for active members and yearly lump-sum increases for retirees, as well as improved the health and safety and health care language in the contract.
“They came after everything from health care to job security,” Balukas said.
They didn’t get it, thanks to a bargaining committee that was focused on moving forward, he said. The negotiations covered a master contract covering all Mack workers and separate agreements for three units of Local 677 in Pennsylvania, Local 2301 (Baltimore), Local 2420 (Jacksonville, Florida), and Local 1247 and Local 171 (Hagerstown, Maryland).
Dave Kotze, a Local 677 member who has been with Mack since 1971 and works in final repair, has been through many battles with the company. When members saw the company’s initial proposals, “We saw our futures being dangled in the process.”
He said he thought the two sides were headed for a confrontation, much like the bitter confrontations the union had with the company in the 1980s. They wanted to hold onto the job security language at all costs, said Kotze, who would have been a strike captain had one been called.
“I thought we were headed there,” he said. “They were going at us on some key issues that we held close to the heart.”
Giving members in the second pay tier a definite path to reach full tier-one pay was one of the biggest achievements of this set of negotiations.
Steve Marzen, the bargaining chairman for Local 677, said giving members in the second pay tier a definite path to reach full tier-one pay was one of the biggest achievements of this set of negotiations. Under the old system, second-tier members only advanced to tier one through attrition. Due to the current business conditions in the industry, many members would not have reached tier-one pay without the new language.
“As long as they are working, they are going to be one day closer to tier one,” Marzen said.
“We hope that we can show them that the union is for everybody,” added Kotze.
Members also felt that maintaining health care with modest contributions on their part was a selling point, Marzen said.
“In today’s world, that is a feat in and of itself,” he added. “No matter what company or organization you are with, everybody is after health care.”
Vice President Jewell thanked the bargaining committees for their work in crafting a solid contract.
“The bargaining committees fought hard to make exceptional gains for Mack workers,” said Jewell. “We’re especially proud of how they were able to eliminate the second-tier pay schedule in this contract.”
Dittes, the director of UAW Region 9 which includes Pennsylvania, said, “Job security at Mack was in question, but the committee held fast to its previously negotiated contract language. As a result, strong job protections remain in place.”
“This agreement moves Mack workers forward and keeps the company globally competitive,” said Curry, whose region covers the Mid-Atlantic and South. “Hard work by the bargaining committee and strong backing from the members brought us a solid contract.”