Why We Were Successful at Triumph!
In May of 2016, our membership had a battle to fight in Spokane for respect, fair wages, maintenance of medical benefits, and most of all retirement security.
The previous contract that concluded 3 years earlier in 2013 resulted in a devastating concessionary agreement that included a two-tier wage structure for those hired after May of 2006, the loss of the defined benefit IAM National Pension Plan for new hires, and the loss of a 401(k) match for those current members still eligible for pension contributions.
In 2013, the Union had recommended that the contract be rejected and a strike authorized. The contract was rejected by 71% but the ensuing strike authorization did not reach the required 2/3rds margin by only 6 votes.
After the company got everything they wanted and even though they are receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in Aerospace Tax Incentives to locate work in Washington State they began to move our work to Mexico.
There were plenty of reasons to turn on each other and try to place blame as to how they backed into a devastating contract. But that's not what happened. Discussions were held to make a plan and set a course for success.
We had a big hole to dig out of three years later in May of 2016. So we started 18 months prior to the expiration engaging with the membership. We held all hands meetings to get everyone involved. An in-plant committee representing all shifts, work areas, and demographics was put together in order to communicate tactics, strategy, and come up with the plan to regain what was lost.
The most important goal was to instill confidence that not only could we be successful but that the goals we had were reasonable. It is reasonable that members could rise to the same level of pay for doing the same work. It is reasonable to maintain healthcare for our families and it is reasonable to work a career and be able to retire at the end of it with dignity.
The committee began preparing members for the fight of their life. We needed people to begin saving for their own strike fund. And so began the ISF. Shop floor discussions focused on, "Do you have you ISF?" "What's that?" "Your Individual Strike Fund!"
Buttons were made. Shirts were distributed. Noise makers were handed out. Forms were created to document illegal behavior from management. The committee found new and creative ways to deliver messages and gather feedback from the floor.
We also prepared our members for what they could expect. We told them that this company would bring in scabs from across the country. We told them that they would be threatened with job loss. And we told them that as long as you know what to expect, then you can prepare for it. And prepare they did.
As we completed bargaining, the company's last and final offer did not address any of the main issues identified by the members. In fact the 401(k) match for those not eligible for the pension was decreased, and the healthcare premiums were now subject to unlimited increases.
The membership needed to make significant improvement on several issues and most of all needed to have retirement security for all members.
The union recommended that the contract be rejected and a strike authorized. This time the membership was not going to be beaten by the strike authorization threshold. With 97% of the entire membership voting, 94% rejected the contract and 93% authorized a strike. The membership solidarity at that moment was as strong as any we have witnessed before. However, before we could take strike action, the company locked us out.
The company was not prepared for how strong we were. They did indeed bring in 400 scabs right away but only two members crossed the line. The use of these scabs probably cost more and destroyed more product and the facility for that matter, than what we were holding strong for in the contract.
To settle the strike we were able to cut the two-tier wages in half, maintain the medical cost structure, gain important job security language and most importantly created a District 751 Savings Plan with additional employer contributions for those not eligible for the pension to ensure that all members had retirement security in one form or another.
In the end, it was the determination and solidarity of our District 751, Local Lodge 86 membership that stuck together and fought against unreasonable concessions to improve the standard of living for each other, their families, and their community.
The lesson that we can learn is that as long as we stick together, engage the membership, include them in a plan with clear direction and action, there isn't anything that we can't accomplish. We are stronger because we fight. We are stronger because we care. We are stronger because we are together.
The new District 751 Savings Plan implemented for members at Triumph can be expanded to include other employers. Our hope is to build on it with the goal of gaining retirement security for all members!
Members' Choice candidates are involved and fight daily to enforce the contract, build unity, provide justice on the job, service to the community and make change for a stronger future for all.