Thursday, July 23, 2009

After Five Week Strike, UAW Returns to Bell Helicopters Unhappy

The United Auto Workers who had been on strike for five weeks against their employer Bell Helicopters voted to ratify their employer's latest offer on Wednesday by a two to one margin.

However, according to the Dallas Business Journal, the only changes from the company's previous offer was of the contract's length and a lower ratification bonus.

Joe Graham, President of UAW 218 told the Dallas paper that "the union tested the water for almost six weeks waiting for a better deal, but sometimes the final offer from the company is the one that stands."


Graham said the contract’s main change is the fact that it runs for four years instead of three. The contract includes a 3 percent general wage increase in the second, third and fourth years. The ratification bonus included in the contract has been lowered to $3,500, which is down from the $4,500 bonus proposed in the original offer, Graham said.

Graham told the Dallas Business Journal he believes the contract was ratified because workers wanted to return to their jobs. When asked if the contract was the union's ideal, he said, "Not by a long shot. I had to endorse it because people wanted something to vote on," he added. "It's not the best contract, it's just the best one we had to vote on this time."

According to Star-Telegram.com:


By a ratio of 2-to-1, members of United Auto Workers Local 218 approved a deal that almost all agreed is less attractive than the one they rejected by a nearly identical vote June 14.

Tom Wells, chairman of Local 218, conceded that the strike didn't result in a better contract. "It got worse," Wells said.

A midlevel union member making $24.94 an hour would have lost nearly $1,000 a week in wages during the strike. That was only partially replaced by union strike benefits of about $200 a week. They were also without health insurance.

"I think it's the worst contract we could ever have," said David McKee, a bonding inspector with 10 years at Bell, who said he voted no. "They took away part of our bonus, and they took away part of our insurance."

Unlike their UAW counterparts in Detroit, at least these Texans have jobs to go back to.

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