Textile Workers Picket Over Layoff Rule

Christopher Peak Photo Factory workers in Fair Haven Heights saved their pensions. Now they’re fighting for their jobs.

Nearly 100 unionized employees at the Lenox Street plant, which produces coated fabrics, are attempting to negotiate their first contract with a new boss. Trelleborg AB, a global engineering company headquartered in Sweden that employs 23,000 workers, acquired the factory from Uretek in November 2014.  (The New Haven plant also has 40 non-unionized employees.)

The new owners continued to operate under the three-year contract members of UNITE HERE Local 151 union had signed with Uretek. That agreement is set to expire next Friday, June 30. The parties have yet to come to an agreement about a key provision in what would be a new contract: when the company can initiate layoffs.

Adjustment to any new boss is tough, noted Frances Boyes, the director of representation from the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE, which is assisting Local 151. He said the talks on a new contract have been stuck on two major points.

The company wanted to switch all employees off a traditional employer-funded pension to a 401(k) retirement plan, she said. The union protested that the change would endanger workers’ savings. Pensions come with a set monthly check that’s guaranteed by the federal government; employees manage their own 401(k) accounts after retirement and could lose big on the stock market. After hearing their concerns, Trelleborg relented on Tuesday, according to the union.

But there’s still the outstanding issue of outsourcing. The current union contract includes language saying that management may not initiate layoffs for work traditionally done in New Haven by switching the work to another location. (One exception: If the government issues a stop-work order.)

The new owner wants to delete that provision.

Local 151 members want to keep it. They argue that the language change would give Trelleborg the leeway to restructure, moving any production to North Carolina, where the company has centralized its American operations, or elsewhere overseas, so long as other production replaces it in New Haven.

If it’s removed, union members believe they’ll suffer the same fate as Archer Rubber in Milford, Mass., a sister company that Trelleborg purchased in the same deal as Uretek. That factory was shuttered in April 2016 and demolished this January.

“We’re a union facility making textiles in New England. We know that story, right. We know what’s happened over the last four or five decades just like this,” Boyes said. “We do not want to see it happen here.”

Neither side seems willing to capitulate, she added.

A Trelleborg employee at the New Haven offices said she was not authorized to speak on the company’s behalf. The company did not provide further comment on the negotiations by the time this story was published.

Around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, union members participated in an “informational picket.”

“When you’re at the negotiating table, you’re not able to bring the voices or frustrations or the experiences of the rank and file. What we’re trying to do is give them the opportunity to be actively participating in these negotiations,” Boyes said. “The company also needs to see it’s not just the six workers and two union reps at the table that we’re dealing with. We represent an entire factory, and this decision is monumental.”

In red shirts, they marched in a circle outside the factory, joined by supporters from Unidad Latina en Accion, the Connecticut Federation of Young Workers, Industrial Workers of the World and Yale grad students from UNITE HERE Local 33.

“What do we want?” Maurice Scott, the union’s shop steward, shouted through a megaphone. “Contract!”

“When do we want it?”

“Now!”

In another chant, Scott yelled, “Trelleborg, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!”

Factory employees produce fabric coated in urethane or rubber that can be used for personal flotation devices, airplane evacuation slides, inflatable mattresses and hospital beds.

They first unionized in 1987 to protest dangerous conditions at the plant. At the time, hazardous conditions led to an outbreak of hepatitis; at least 10 workers at the time contracted the disease.

In more recent times, workers have experienced crushed limbs, burns, hair caught in machinery and asthma from chemical exposure, said William Wilkes, a 12-year employee in the hazardous waste department who said the fumes give him vertigo.

The federal government settled several cases with Uretek, most recently for $14,900 in May 2013. Trelleborg hasn’t had any enforcement actions from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration since the acquisition.

Despite the hazards, workers say the factory has given them stable manufacturing jobs that they don’t want to see leave New Haven. One noted that the plant was able to weather even the economic turndown in 2008. Several employees once believed Trelleborg’s purchase (and the new owner’s $49.1 billion market capitalization) would power improvements at the factory, but now they wonder if their jobs will be shipped down south.

More negotiations are scheduled next week. If they fall through, Local 151 members will decide whether they want to escalate with a strike.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 21, 2017  8:23pm

The New Haven plant also has 40 non-unionized employees.

Should have join the union.You all will be the first to go.

The company wanted to switch all employees off a traditional employer-funded pension to a 401(k) retirement plan, she said. The union protested that the change would endanger workers’ savings. Pensions come with a set monthly check that’s guaranteed by the federal government; employees manage their own 401(k) accounts after retirement and could lose big on the stock market. After hearing their concerns, Trelleborg relented on Tuesday, according to the union.

The 401 K is a scam.The only one who makes money is the crooked investment advisers with the fees they charge.In fact people who begin to make withdrawals from their plans all of the capital gains realized by the investment, even over 25-30 years, is taxed not at the normal capital gains rates but as regular income.Even Ted Benna The creator of the 401k.has called it a failure.

Front line Retirement Gamble-Mutual Fund Fees

https://youtu.be/N2qarh-TaYY

Part One.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 21, 2017  8:27pm

Part Two.

You need to read this book.

Great Wall Street Retirement Scam What THEY Don’t Want You to Know about 401ks, IRA and Other Plans

Look at what this person in the book wrote about his 401K

Back in the 80’s I was making $100,000+ a year.I funded a 401k like everyone else.I had half a million bucks when I retired in 1998.Today I’m almost broke. What happened? $200k went to taxes; $100k was lost in the market down turn; most of the rest has been spent over the last 12 years. And, I paid between $10,000 and $20,000 in fees to wall street money managers that never told me they were charging my 401k these fees (by law, they didn’t have to tell me). Within a year or so I will have only social security to live on. Had I had the information in this book in 1980 I could have saved thousands in fees. So, keep funding those 401k’s suckers… and wind up like me.I wonder if McDonald’s is hiring?

I am the voice of the people.

posted by: cunningham on June 21, 2017  10:10pm

This is an important story. I hope NHI continues to cover it.

posted by: 1644 on June 22, 2017  6:35am

In Sweden recently, I noticed a Gant Store which had numerous goods emblazoned: GANT 1949 EAST COAST NEW HAVEN CONNECTICUT.  The walls of the store had reproductions of a New Haven Register story about Gant moving from Orange Street to its new factory on Long Wharf.  There was a photograph of the Gant brothers.  The shopgirl told me that while the company was now owned by a Swiss, the design work was done in Stockholm.  Of course, most goods were made in China, with a few made in Portugal.  Nothing was made in the USA, let alone New Haven.  From what I can find on-line, UNITE’s pension plans are underfunded, multi-employer plans.  These plans tend to get into a death spiral as employers leave them (through bankruptcy or plant closure). leaving the remaining participating employers with an ever greater share of the shortfall.  The owner gave in on the pension issue because it will close the plant.  We will be lucky if the jobs stay as close as North Carolina.

posted by: 1644 on June 22, 2017  7:13am

Trelleborg does not list New Haven as one of its US locations on its website, only Rutherfordton, NC, and Spartanburg, SC (where it makes tires).  Trelleborg does not own the plant, only the business.  The plant is held in a separate corporate shell, Uretek Archer Acquisition Corp.  This was the vehicle to hold that held the Milford, Mass., plant until it was sold.  Like the New Haven plant, the Milford plant was old (1875) and had a history of environmental problems.  Meanwhile, in North Carolina:
http://www.areadevelopment.com/newsItems/10-23-2013/trelleborg-coated-systems-operations-expansion-rutherfordton-north-carolina238923.shtml
North Carolina has been a “right-to-work” state since 1947.

posted by: LookOut on June 22, 2017  7:32am

Sadly, this looks like another business that is being chased out of New England by greedy union bosses.  Companies that are not able to shift work to where the best machinery, infrastructure, and labor exists are at an extreme disadvantage in the marketplace and usually don’t survive.  Companies that have to absorb the additional cost and risk of pensions vs 401Ks usually don’t survive (try to name 3 successful businesses that offer pensions in 2017).  If the union is successful with their demands, the result will be a crippled company that will not be in New Haven very long.

posted by: NewHaven18 on June 22, 2017  8:19am

Just look at these snowflakes impeding on my right to purchase fabrics. Just wait until they graduate and learn….oh wait…..wrong article

posted by: TheMadcap on June 22, 2017  8:45am

try to name 3 successful businesses that offer pensions in 2017

The last I read about 28 million employees out of 114 million pribate sector workers still had pensions, like a lot? And it ranges from UPS to Stop and Shop and ExonnMobil, and there is your three.

posted by: Paul Wessel on June 22, 2017  9:28am

This plant has a long and storied history.  The union has been vital in protecting the workers and surrounding community.  See http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/13/nyregion/at-factory-chemical-fumes-set-off-strike.html for some of that history.

posted by: Anonymous Bosh on June 22, 2017  9:42am

NC is nice; why not move?

Oh, and while I may or may not agree with (or care about) this particular issue, I duly acknowledge the appropriate application of a union (even UNITE HERE) versus, say, over at Yale’s GESO/Local 33 union wannabes.

posted by: 32knot on June 22, 2017  10:18am

This game is already decided. While the union is right to try and protect the jobs the company also has the right to manage its operations in an efficient manner. It looks like the efficient manner is to move the operation out of New Haven. the fact that the company agreed to keeping the pensions as is seems to be that it will not be an issue in the future. Another instance when semi skilled jobs are leaving a high cost area and migrating to lower energy and lower labor costs. also the plant is old, in a difficult location with old equipment so it really is a no brainer when you take the emotional issues out of the question. The move out of New Haven will not be accelerated rather than delayed.

posted by: 1644 on June 22, 2017  2:13pm

The “game” was decided when Trelleborg bought Uretek Archer.  Trelleborg wanted the product line and the customers, not the high-cost, troubled New England plants.  Production will be shifted to a newer, safer, more efficient plant in a community that values employers.  Upgrading the New Haven plant would mean dealing with a hostile building department and Board of Alders.  If Connecticut itself were friendly to business, Uretek might relocate to North Haven, Branford, or Milford.  But it’s not.  Anti-employer bias permeates the state government, particularly in the Workers’ Comp and Unemployment Commissions.  New Haven has better transportation links than Rutherfordton, which has no rail or port, and no major airports like JFK or Newark just an interstate.  But it’s closer to South Carolina’s airplane assembly plants, lower cost in taxes, labor, housing, health care (probably a savings of $5K/employee/year) workers’ comp, unemployment insurance,  etc.  As a bonus, Trelleborg won’t have to deal with union contracts.

posted by: LookOut on June 22, 2017  5:41pm

@MadCap:  Good research.  It is hard (but obviously not impossible) to find companies with pension plans.  As you state, about 20% to 25% of private biz employees are in a plan.  Two significant caveats though - 1) the number was over 60% 30 years ago and 2) most businesses maintain the plan for those that are ‘in’ and do not offer it to new employees.  The result is that the number in plans will continue to dwindle and a new employee has about a 6% to 7% chance of getting into a pension plan.  Most projections show that virtually no new employee pension plans will exist in the US by 2030.  The reasons for this are many (too much risk, employees don’t stick around…etc) but the trend is clear.

posted by: NewHavenRyan on June 22, 2017  7:20pm

The real issue employees have is a lack of capital ownership. Check out
http://capitalhomestead.org
There are great ideas to face thorny economic problem, but they aren’t accessible as sound bites or slogans. Simply blaming either of the angles in this one-party system just focuses our attention on the horse races, where only the animal’s owners can really win.

posted by: Peter99 on June 22, 2017  8:34pm

Does everybody remember Winchester (US Repeating Arms CO). The union pushed the company until they finally quit fighting and made up their corporate mind to leave New Haven. It sounds like that is what is going to happen at this factory. They do not care about the pension argument because they have decided to leave. There will probably be no new contract, just severance if the union is lucky.

posted by: JCFremont on June 22, 2017  9:21pm

For all you fixed benefit pension ever wonder why the Railroad Pensions had to be taken over by the US government in the 1930’s? For these plans to work you have to believe the company will be around forever and continue to make the same profits, the work force will remain the same if not grow and the wages will grow in order to sustain current payouts as well as having money to put in future retires planes. The State of Illinois recently found out that one hundred percent of their budget was needed just to pay its pensioners. When companies speak about their “shareholders” many times the largest shareholder is a State or Federal Pension plan. Somewhere along the way people got it in their heads that belonging to a Union meant you could not be fired or laid off, your salary would rise each yearand retirement check will be just a few dollars less than when you where working.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2017  7:31am

posted by: Peter99 on June 22, 2017 9:34pm

Does everybody remember Winchester (US Repeating Arms CO). The union pushed the company until they finally quit fighting and made up their corporate mind to leave New Haven.

Does everybody remember how Hostess’ CEO, Gregory Rayburn, essentially admitted that his company stole employee pension money..The CEO and senior executives were paying themselves handsome salaries and big bonuses employees got a letter that said that the company was going to “temporarily suspend payments” to its pension funds.  That would be the $3 per hour that this worker had negotiated as part of his compensation – instead of paying it to him by putting it into his pension fund now, the company said they were going to put it in later. As the letter said, “I want to be clear that this temporary suspension of payments to the pension fund will not affect your pension benefits.Workers believed management, and kept on working.But, it turned out, as we learned from that interview in today’s Wall Street Journal, that the senior management wasn’t just “borrowing” the pension funds – they were using them to fund ongoing operations.  Including big paychecks to the fatcats.

http://www.politicususa.com/2012/12/11/betrayal-remedy-hostess-pensions-fund-bankruptcy.html

Every labor contract that has ever gone into effect in the United States of America has two signatures at the bottom, attesting that they agree to and accept all of the terms contained within: one from the union, and one from the company.No union in the US has ever gotten anything, at any time, that management did not agree to give them.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2017  7:48am

posted by: JCFremont on June 22, 2017 10:21pm

The State of Illinois recently found out that one hundred percent of their budget was needed just to pay its pensioners.

And the reason for this is like I said in my last post.I have family in Illinois and they work in the private sector.They told me Illinois has been run by the insiders for the benefit of the insiders for decades, and all on the backs of the tax payers. Illinois, the most politically corrupt state in the country. They said there is a there is a 11 Billion dollar shortfall in the pension because of the Under funding of the pension fund by the state.Public Sector workers contributed 5% out of salary which was essentially matched by the state under fund there part by balancing budgets with borrowed money year after year. So blame the state.

For all you fixed benefit pension ever wonder why the Railroad Pensions had to be taken over by the US government in the 1930’s?

How come these states do not have a pension problem.

The 10 Best State Pension Funds

http://www.cheatsheet.com/personal-finance/the-10-best-state-pension-funds.html/?a=viewall

You know why.They do not under fund or loot there pensions fund.

Stop blaming unions!!!

posted by: 1644 on June 23, 2017  9:32am

3/5’s, you are correct, union contracts are the result of two party negotiations.  That does not mean that they are wise.  Workers often look to prevent the company from accumulating capital which will allow it to endure downturns, and to keep profit margins as close to zero as possible.  The result is union companies are unable to respond to changing market conditions, and do, as with GM, Hostess, and virtually every air line, go bankrupt, leaving PGBC to pick up the underfunded pensions of retirees.  Yes, Hostess executives prioritized wages, including their own, over pension payments.  In essence, they delayed the inevitable, leaving even less money for creditors, including pensioners. (Owners’ equity was wiped out completely).
Ryan: Socialism is a wonderful ideal.  The sad fact is, however, social or co-opertive ownership rarely works.  Look at United Air Lines, or the many co-operative housing complexes in New Haven.  Most of the housing co-op failed because tenants failed to set rents high enough to cover reserves for long-term maintenance, and often would not evict non-paying tenants, leading to mortgage defaults.  Hill Central is dissolving itself because the tenants want capital to renovate, but they lack it.  The Yale Co-op, while technically owned by the students, was essentially run by and for its unionized employees.  (Students received a pittance in rebates as there was little profit due to wages far above market retail wages).  It lost its lease and went under because the employees did not want to work evenings.  Mory’s suffered a similar fate, although it has been reconstituted with non-union labor and more profitable physical plant and hours.

posted by: 1644 on June 23, 2017  10:36am

3/5’s. Wisconsin is fully funded because it automatically cuts benefits to maintain its full-funded status.  If the market slumps, or the state does make its contribution, retiree benefits are reduced. https://projects.jsonline.com/news/2016/9/26/wisconsins-fully-funded-pension-system-is-one-of-a-kind.html
In states like Connecticut and Illinois, the unions have never prioritized pension payments.  CEA has made some noise about the underfunding of TRS,  but never lobbied as hard for pension funding as for ECS funding, pre-school, and continued raises under binding arbitration, even though raises make the pension even more underfunded.  Similarly,  state employees have been happy to see the state forgo contributions to SERS while maintaining or increasing employment rolls and wages.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2017  3:59pm

posted by: 1644 on June 23, 2017 10:32am

3/5’s, you are correct, union contracts are the result of two party negotiations.  That does not mean that they are wise.

The state is the one who is not wise.When the sate comes to the table they are bargain in good faith.They do not.This is a problem also.Look at what happen with Hostess’ CEO, Gregory Rayburn, essentially admitted that his company stole employee pension money..If I sit at the table and we agree on the contract and when the times comes,How are you going to blame me when the state does not have the money we agreed upon.You say Wisconsin is fully funded because it automatically cuts benefits to maintain its full-funded status.May be true.But what about the other Nine States that did not Cut Benefits.Case and Point I have a New York State Pension..Check this out.

Investment Performance

The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the U.S., with an estimated $192 billion in assets under management (as of March 31, 2017).

As a long-term investor, the Fund has a robust diversification investment approach which capitalizes on market opportunities and weathers market ups and downs.•The Fund’s average five-year return is 10.17%, 10-year return is 7.12% and 20-year return is 8.69%.•Over the long-term, the Fund’s assumed rate of return to meet current and future retirement benefits is 7%.

Notice no under funding of the pension fund.

Did you also know that the New York State Retirement Fund also make loans to small businesses for working capital, equipment or real property. With its focus on small‐business lending.this also helps boost the pension fund.

New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC)

https://osc.state.ny.us/pension/nybdc.htm

Part One

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2017  4:22pm

Part Two


Pension Fund Overview


As of March 31, 2017

•Third largest pension fund in the United States
•Estimated $192 billion in assets held in trust for pension benefits (final audited numbers available in Summer 2017)
•Over 3,000 State and local government participating employers
•More than one million members, retirees and beneficiaries
•$10.9 billion paid out in benefits in fiscal year 2015-2016
•Two different systems: Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS)

https://osc.state.ny.us/pension/snapshot.htm

Notice new cuts like Wisconsin.

This is the Best one.

State Comptroller DiNapoli has made the Fund one of the most transparent and accountable public pension funds in the country by:
Changing the Way the Fund Does Business
•Prohibits the Fund from doing business with investment advisers who make political contributions to the State Comptroller or a candidate for State Comptroller.•Releases monthly reporting on investment transactions.•Reports pension fund performance quarterly instead of annually.•Initiated a comprehensive review of all Fund external consultants.

https://osc.state.ny.us/pension/reforms_pensionfund.htm

Also to help the pension fund grow.The workers can take loans out on there pensions.

:Your loan is always exempt from New York State and local taxes.The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), however, may consider all or part of a NYSLRS loan taxable as a “deemed distribution from a qualified plan,” if:

https://osc.state.ny.us/retire/members/loans.php

Feel free to read the rest.

https://osc.state.ny.us/retire/members/index.php

My question to you is what are New York and the other states doing as you see that make them largest pension fund in the country that other states are not?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2017  4:32pm

@ 1644

As far as Wisconsin Check this out.The seem to be doing good.

Wisconsin public employee pensions will rise based on gains for SWIB funds

The Core Fund is the primary fund that supplies pensions for all retirees who are members of the Wisconsin Retirement System. It is diversified, with holdings in stocks, bonds, real estate, loans and private equity, and its impact is smoothed over five years.As of Dec. 31, 2016, the Core Fund had a preliminary market value of $89.3 billion

http://host.madison.com/wsj/business/wisconsin-public-employee-pensions-will-rise-based-on-gains-for/article_1cd20b11-0a70-5df5-a590-d646f0fd2014.html