Union: Sides far apart

Union: Sides far apart
 
Date June 11, 2004
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By JOHN JENNINGS

NDN Staff Writer

United Auto Workers Local 997 held a meeting of membership Friday afternoon, and although the members appeared upbeat, the strike which began Thursday afternoon may be more than just a one or two-day affair.

“They gave us their proposal and the membership rejected it,” UAW President Pat Teed said after the meeting. Teed said he went through Maytag management’s final offer during the meeting, hitting the highlights, and the choice was made to stand behind UAW’s International Representative Dennis Walker and Regional Director Dennis Williams.

Negotiations broke off Thursday shortly before 3 p.m., and by 4 p.m., union members were on the picket lines around plant 2, many with placards voicing their solidarity. Tensions were high at that time and members were reluctant to express comments. Friday following the meeting, although most understood the strike may last awhile, many were expressing a united purpose, having been informed of the details of the negotiations. Walker said Maytag and the union are far apart on a few bargaining points.

“The strike will continue until the company moves off some of their positions,” Walker said. “Union membership demands a fair and equitable agreement. We stand ready to negotiate.”

The rumor on the street Wednesday was that union and Maytag negotiators were very close to an agreement, but Walker said the two sides are now nowhere close on a number of key issues.

“We’re so far apart we can’t even see them on the radar screen,” Walker said.

Teed said there was no job security offered in the company’s latest proposal, and a couple of other items have created rifts between the two sides.

“The pension plan took a giant step backward, and the membership was upset with medical and drug benefits,” Teed said. He would not elaborate further on details of the negotiations, but said the retirees’ benefits were not in jeopardy.

Comments from several UAW Local 997 members following the meeting indicated a strong sense of solidarity. Teed indicated that the next step is up to Maytag, and that he is ready to continue negotiations any time.

“The membership feels that we’re not striking Maytag, the company is striking them, their heritage and their dependability,” Teed said. The union members don’t want to strike, he said, but many couldn’t believe what the company was offering. “We’re a working-class people. We want to get back to producing quality products.”

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