PLYMOUTH, Mn. - Progress Casting Group on Monday locked out 160 employees represented by Local 63B of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union.
"The company notified everybody by phone not to show up to work – that the company was locking them out," said Greg Sticha, financial secretary-treasurer for Local 63B. A union member who showed up at the foundry Monday morning was turned away, he said.
Local 63B members have been working without a contract since the last agreement expired Sept. 30. On that day, they rejected what the company called its final offer.
Company and union representatives met Oct. 14 at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, but little progress was made, Sticha said.
On Oct. 15, as if to punish employees for not accepting the company's Sept. 30 final offer, the company in a second final offer, announced it planned to unilaterally impose a $2.50-an-hour wage cut, he said. Base wage at the plant is $19.73 an hour. Coupled with other economic concessionary demands many employees could see a reduction in annual take home pay up to $5 per hour.
The union is filing an unfair labor practice charge against Progress Casting with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the company has not bargained in good faith.
"FMCS has facilitated another meeting for negotiations for Nov. 10," Sticha said. "The company has basically said they're not interested in a contract that does not include its massive concessionary demands."
Tough times for foundries
Workers at Progress Casting make cast aluminum products for major manufacturers such as Boeing and Harley-Davidson. The company has been affected by the Machinists' union strike against Boeing and the nationwide economic downturn and lack of credit. Earlier this month, Progress laid off about 50 workers at its Plymouth foundry, Sticha said. The 50 are in addition to the 160 who have been locked out.
Workers at the plant have been represented by a union since the late 1940s, Sticha said.
Negotiations on a new contract got under way in July At the first meeting, the company arrived with a list of "very drastic" concession demands, including a three-year wage freeze, caps on vacation time, lower pay for new hires, changes in job bidding and overtime language and an end to employer contributions to the multi-employer pension plan.
Over several bargaining sessions, "the company refused to withdraw any" of its major concessionary demands, Sticha said.
When workers rejected the final offer from Progress Casting, the company seemed to expect a strike, he noted. "They had hired temps and they hired security guards."
Instead, union members decided to continue working under the terms of the old contract. "That threw the company completely – they weren't expecting that," said Sticha.
Faced with a lockout, the workers, led by the union shop committee, are pondering their next steps, Sticha said.
Progress Casting, a privately held company, also operates a foundry in New Hampton, Iowa, which employs about 90 people. Workers there attempted to organize with the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union this past spring. But even though 60 workers signed cards in favor of union representation, the effort failed when an election was finally held following an intense anti-union campaign by the employer, Sticha said.