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The lede, from tonight's Oshkosh Northwestern:

Members of United Auto Workers Local 578 overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer that would essentially freeze take home pay for five years, with 85 percent voting no Friday afternoon.
Thousands of United Auto Workers Local 578 members packed an Experimental Aircraft Association hangar this afternoon to discuss and vote on the most recent contract offer from Oshkosh Corp.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers more detail:

The union represents more than 3,000 Oshkosh employees, most of whom make trucks for the U.S. military. Union officials said they have pre-authorized a strike but have not yet called for it. About 2,800 of the employees voted on the contract.
"We are certainly willing and able to meet with the company again and continue negotiations," Local 578 Vice President Joe Preisler said.

This is a major test of collective bargaining power in Wisconsin, where worker's rights are under attack in the public and private sector. It's also a test of whether public and private sector unions will be able to stand in solidarity to put into practice the labor maxim that "an injury to one is an injury to all."
There is some residual bitterness in Wisconsin about the perception that public unions haven't fully supported private sector workers forced to accept concessions since Wall Street broke the economy. Employers have basically blackmailed workers with threats of plant shutdowns and moving jobs elsewhere. Now that public employees are being attacked by Gov. Scott Walker, will the dynamic change?
The union's bargaining committee opposed the contract.
"We saw it as an attempt to bust the union," Preisler said.


This Reuters story says Oshkosh Corp. (a Fortune 500 firm) in fiscal 2010 reported nearly $10 billion in revenue and a $1.4 billion operating profit, up 216 percent and 337 percent, respectively, from 2006. But its stock is down 50 percent recently, a drop attributed to "concern about the defense business," said Paul Bodnar, a senior analyst with Longbow Research in Cleveland. "Investors are wondering what will 2012 and 2013 look like."

The company is disappointed about the vote, said spokesman John Daggett, but is will to negotiate further. “At this point in time, the union has requested to meet. We would like to meet and we’ll take it from there.”
The company could notify the union that the rejected contract is its final offer. Local 578 President Nick Nitschke wants a contract. “We’re willing to start up again. We want to get it done.”
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Comment Preferences

  •  As a welder and member of UAW 578... (15+ / 0-)

    I sat through a long and impassioned meeting this afternoon and added my "NO!" vote along with the rest of the 85%. As is often the case, these days, the local media are probably getting most of their info from Oskosh Corp and so it is heavily focused on the wage and benefits package. Although the incremental increases in the insurance portion were probably a little out of whack, most of the people with whom I have spoken would have been ok with that part of it, considering the economic turmoil we are all experiencing. The $2000 signing bonus and wage increase percentages would have more than have been eclipsed by the insurance cost rise.

    There were a couple of things that really angered the membrship, though. New contract language called for the company to be able to hire non-union workers (up to 10% of total workers) with much lower pay and no benefits. In other words, they were asking us to vote in an open shop situation by accepting their contract proposal. There was also new language that would have effectively ended all possibility of any regular new-hires from receiving any pension guarantee whatsoever. There were several other wording changes and contract language that would have affected the equalizing and distribution of overtime but are too hard to explain in full and are somewhat less universal in their effect.

    The overall effect of the way the company refused to acknowledge most of the suggestions and points of contention, brought up by the union negotiators, and the "take it or leave it" attitude of the "Last, Best, and Final Offer" as it was titled, was enough to convince a lot of people who had been ready to vote "Yes" to reconsider and stand up for fair treatment and what we believe is earned respect.

    Scott Walker- He's not one of us...

    by TtexwiTyler on Fri Sep 30, 2011 at 10:42:14 PM PDT

    •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      magnetics, epcraig, blueoasis, TtexwiTyler

      Different tiers is another insidious tactic. Will pickets continue? Hope to get up there with some people and join in. I've never been in a union, but I know in my heart and head they are good for America.

      I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

      by plankbob on Fri Sep 30, 2011 at 10:53:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        At the present time, the two sides are planning on meeting and continuing negtiations while the membership will supposedly keep working under the old contract in good faith that a new, more equitably negotiated offer will be forthcoming.

        I do want to correct one thing that I stated previously. You are very correct in referring to the low wage new-hires as a "tiered" situation. Evidently, the new-hires would have to join the union, but would still work for up to six months before the job would have been posted as permanent. Even so, there was not clear language stating whether or not the person would see an increase in pay and status, which in my mind means they would not. There was also contract language that attempted to change some of the structure of the layoff process. Hypothetically, an older, more experienced worker could be forced to train a new, low wage and benefit worker to do his job and then if a layoff occurred in that area, the decision as to who to layoff would be up to the company to decide.

        At this point, no one really knows how long any of this could or will go on. I think it is important to point out that unlike most other contract actions, Oshkosh Corp's majority customer is the US Defense Dept and thus is not as free to ship these jobs overseas, by law. Having said that, they could hire strike breakers to fill the positions but would have a difficult time bringing most of them up to speed in time to fulfill contracts that are currently in progress. The quality requirements for the military products are surprisingly high and it has taken Oshkosh Corp nearly five years to hire enough people to produce at the level we have been producing.

        I have only been at Oshkosh Corp for about four years, myself. However, I had previously been a field-construction Boilermaker for 25 years before that. I've also done some other types of work, but union work has always been the most solid, fair employment that I have experienced. I know that many fairly well-intentioned people think that unions are only there to cause trouble and protect slugs. I would counter that without unions, there would be no shop rules and all decisions would simply be arbitrarily made by a company boss with only one criterium, money.

        Thanks for writing this diary and I hope to keep in touch as things proceed.  


        Scott Walker- He's not one of us...

        by TtexwiTyler on Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 08:40:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I work for a company headquartered in Wisconsin, (5+ / 0-)

      and (through many visits there over the years) have learned  to respect the locals as tough, hard-headed, independent, capable, and, at times, unpredictable.

      On Wisconsin!

      The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

      by magnetics on Fri Sep 30, 2011 at 11:13:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Deflation is a comin (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    magnetics, epcraig

    That's what happens in depressions.  

    Locking in the wages is the way to go.  

    The darkness drops again but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? William Butler Yeats

    by deepsouthdoug on Fri Sep 30, 2011 at 10:53:02 PM PDT

  •  Is the company willing to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plankbob, TtexwiTyler

    freeze their prices or profits for 5 years? Would the company let the union pick 10% of the management team?

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