A two month strike is over at Manitowoc Cranes. Members of Local 516 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted 112 to 59 Thursday to ratify the company’s latest offer. The union’s main objection was the company’s freedom of choice provision which allows workers not to be union members in order to be employed. There was also word that Manitowoc would hire permanent replacements if a deal wasn’t reached soon. “Our committee didn’t see anything about people being replaced,” says Leon Gauthier, a union member who voted no. “That’s all crap, a bunch of bull from somebody. We don’t know where it came from, but I don’t believe it.” Don Griffin, business representative for IAM’s District 10 office in Milwaukee, was asked about the rumor. “Unfortunately, from what I heard, some media station had it scrolling on the bottom of the screen that the company did say they were going to. But they did notify the union” of any such plans, says Griffin.
Griffin says financially hurting workers felt they had no choice other than to accept the company’s terms. “That was nine weeks. And let this be the message for any other company that wants to propose this. It’s going to be a bare minimum of nine weeks work stoppage, if not longer.” The four-year contract contains a two percent annual raise – seven days to decide whether to pay union dues – a $250 signing bonus and management will continue to recognize Local 516 as their representative, no matter their membership status. They’ll be called back in stages within five working days.
“I voted no,” says union member. “Because the other unions around the whole country will be going downhill. They need someone to stand up for workers’ rights, whether union or non-union. Union member Gauthier explains his no vote. “Because I believe in my union. Just as my grandfather and whoever down the road before,” he says, adding that he feels let down by the vote. “These guys aren’t sticking up for their forefathers and whoever fought for the rights that we have now.”
Griffin, the IAM District 10 official, says the company said it wanted to “protect the two percent of the workforce that doesn’t want to belong to the union, doesn’t want to pay their fair share. And we do have to represent them, by law.” Union member Jason Peterson sympathizes with those union members who are financially hurting. “I understand that. They do have families to take care of. Like our union said, we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Some people have no place to turn to.”
Brian Norton, WOMT