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News :: Labor
Standard-Thomson workers stand up to concessions to win better contract
17 May 2006
Workers at Standard Thomson in Waltham, Massachusetts united in their union (IUE-CWA Local 274) to fight the company's concessionary demands and preserve the good jobs our communities need.
After several weeks of stalemated contract negotiations, more than 150 members of IUE-CWA Local 274 who work for Standard Thomson met to consider management’s “final offer.” Standard Thomson, a British subsidiary of Tomkins PLC, manufactures thermostats for the auto industry in Waltham.

The company demanded major concessions on health insurance, vacation and holidays, and offered only skimpy pay raises. Management further sought to combine almost all job classifications into one “assembly operator” title, while retaining the right to disqualify members for 18 months with only limited resort to the grievance procedure. And it proposed instituting 24 – 7 operations with grueling 12 hour rotating shifts.

“In the past, our union committee has always been divided,” said newly elected local union President Ben Torres. “We had some members only looking out for themselves and some that took private matters back to management. That hurt us badly. As a result we’ve given up a lot over the last few years.”

At a meeting on May 13, Torres and the Negotiating Committee presented the details about the proposed three-year contract and unanimously recommended a strike vote. In the face of the usual company threats to close their plant, members voted 149 to 6 to reject the company's takeaway contract offer.

“This year, management couldn’t break our solidarity,” said Torres. “If we disagreed with one another, it stayed private. We showed management we were really united!”

The Local 274 members were not alone. Ric Casilli, a Business Agent from IUE-CWA Local 201 in Lynn, MA pledged to provide financial and political support to back up the members’ decision. Also attending to show solidarity were Local 201 Organizing Committee member Norm Hirschfeld, CWA District 1 Reps Steve Early and Paul Bouchard, members from the local Carpenters’ union, and Jobs with Justice Director Russ Davis.

“Local 201 members who work at GE have a lot in common with S-T workers in their fight to preserve good jobs and their dignity,” said Hirschfeld. “We manufacturing workers need to start sticking together.”

With the overwhelming strike vote and community support behind them, the union committee resumed negotiations with the company. In just two days it succeeded in getting the company to drop almost all of the take aways and make improvements in wages and pension. On May 16, Local 274 members ratified the new “final offer” 137 to 12.

Like Standard Thomson, many other employers are trying to exploit divisions in the workforce and increased globalization to take away the good jobs that our families and communities depend on. Local 274 members showed the power of sticking together to fight back and win.
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