By Mike Elk
On Saturday, Honeywell workers making components for the U.S. military’s F-35 and F-18 airplanes in South Bend, Indiana and Green Island, New York voted to end a grueling, ten-month lockout. The workers voted to ratify a five-year contract with the company by a margin of 151-to-104. The workers will now return back to work March 13.
While many of the workers are happy to return, they had to make a great number of concessions. Under the terms of the new deal, all pensions at the plant will be frozen and healthcare costs will increase.
“The health care is pretty big blow. I was paying $64 a week and now it will jump up to $114. If you include vision and dental, it goes up to $152 a week,” says UAW Local 9 Vice President Todd Treder, who is married and has three children. “Basically, I will be [paying] $4 an hour towards healthcare.”
However, the union was able to stave off some of the worst aspects of the company’s original offer. They were able to maintain union job classifications within the plant, as well as seniority on bidding for shifts. Without seniority on shift bids, Treder says that scheduling at the plant would have been unpredictable.
Most importantly, the union was able to force Honeywell to withdraw its request to be able to unilaterally increase healthcare costs at individual plants during the life of the contract. Instead, if the company wants to change healthcare in the middle of the contract, it will be forced to negotiate nationally with all the unions affected by adjustments to the company’s healthcare plan.
Treder says that the union was only able to win such concessions from Honeywell after it voted down the company’s offer last fall by a 3-to-1 margin.
“In November, when we had the membership, I stood up and told them to vote it down. I thought Honeywell had more movement in them,” says Treder.
However, Treder says that he did not see Honeywell making significantly more concessions after Honeywell and Teamsters Local 1185, which represents 976 Honeywell workers in Minneapolis, settled on a contract in early February.
“There really wasn’t much leverage after that to push further. It kinda hurt us a little when [Teamsters Local 1185] voted it in,” says Treder.
According to Treder, the final contract proposal by Honeywell is nearly identical to the one agreed to by the Teamsters in Minneapolis.
Following the expiration of unemployment benefits for many workers, depletion of savings worn down by the ten-month fight, and a feeling that little progress could be made with the Minneapolis contract settled, Treder recommended to his members that they ratify the contract this Sunday.
“We got some that are little disgruntled, but we got a good majority that are happy we are going back,” says Tredder. “It’s been a lockout.”
Mike Elk is a Sidney award winner and a lifetime member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild. He previously served as senior labor reporter at POLITICO, as an investigative reporter at In These Times Magazine, and has written for the New York Times. In 2015, Elk was illegally fired for union organizing at POLITICO and used his NLRB settlement to found Payday Report.
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