TONAWANDA, N.Y.—Employees under Local 135, the United Steelworkers union that represents Sumitomo Rubber USA L.L.C. in Tonawanda, will receive a wage increase under its tentative agreement with the company.
According to a summary of the pact posted on Local 135's website, Tonawanda union employees will receive a 75 cent hourly wage increase in the first payroll period following ratification followed by a 20 cent increase each year for the duration of the contract, according to the summary.
In addition to the general wage increase, those in skilled trades positions, excluding electricians, will receive a $1 per hour bump the first pay period following ratification, plus another 25 cents per hour the first period after Jan. 1.
The deal covers about 1,000 workers and will be up for ratification in the coming weeks, a USW spokesman said. Sumitomo said in a Aug. 3 news release that it expects a vote to be scheduled by the union sometime in the next few days.
"Both parties in the negotiations were thorough in their preparations and leveraged a longstanding respectful relationship to come to a tentative agreement," Bill Jackson, Sumitomo Rubber USA vice president of human resources, said in a statement. "Sumitomo Rubber USA looks forward to ratification and a continued productive relationship with the USW."
Local 135 said in its summary that the bargaining committee believes it addressed most of the issues membership deemed important through a survey taken prior to the bargaining process. According to an earlier statement on Local 135's website, those included: general wage increases, sick/personal days, increase 401k contributions, eliminate the two-tier wage scale, preserve COLA, preserve VEBA and provide more notice in regards to open shift scheduling, among others.
The Sumitomo agreement outlined that 17 new jobs will be added to the graded mechanical division:
- Three hourly planners with 15 percent premium pay;
- Seven to the capital work crew; and
- Seven utility mechanics.
On the retirement front, the summary said all employees will be moved to a grandfathered 401k plan with a $100 per year increase in contribution. All new hires automatically will be enrolled into a 401k plan.
Health care saw some significant changes with a $1.50 per week increase in premiums from 2018-21 and no increases in 2022. A high deductible plan with a health savings account also will be available. Employees may opt out of health insurance if their spouse has employer provided health insurance. No changes were made to the vacation, cost of living allocation (COLA) or voluntary employee beneficiary association (VEBA) plan, which will remain at a $3.5 million cap.
Grandfathered employees will keep their status regardless of what job they sign. For every grandfathered employee who resigns, retires or is fired, the senior non-grandfathered employee will move to grandfathered status for pay purposes.
The union and Sumitomo also agreed to form a joint committee to look at standards and methods for developing standards. According to the summary, no changes can be made without mutual agreement.
The committee will include equal representation from the union and the company, with each side having no more than six members each. It will consist of two chairs—one from the union and the other from the company—who will establish the agenda and meeting frequency, which the summary states should be at least once per month.
For consistency, both parties will try not to change the membership or leadership of the committee until the work is completed.
The USW also reached tentative master agreements with Goodyear and Bridgestone North America Inc., which were also set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on July 29. The sides reached a tentative agreement covering 11 U.S. sites and more than 10,000 employees.
The USW spokesman confirmed via email that summaries of all three U.S. contracts are being prepared and information/ratification meetings are in the process of being scheduled. From there the locals will schedule vote dates/times. He added that the process likely will take a couple of weeks.
Goodyear said in a July 29 statement that its deal covers 7,000 workers at five sites—Local 2 in Akron; Local 12 in Gadsden, Ala.; Local 307 in Topeka, Kan.; Local 831 in Danville, Va.; and Local 959 in Fayetteville, N.C.
Bridgestone's contract covers more than 3,000 employees at six sites—Local 7 in Akron; Local 310 in Des Moines, Iowa; Local 787 in Bloomington, Ill.; Local 884 in Russellville, Ark.; Local 1055 in La Vergne, Tenn.; and Local 1155 in Warren County, Tenn.—according to the spokeswoman.
According to Local 310's website, information meetings regarding the agreement were scheduled for Aug. 6, Aug. 7 and Aug. 8.
In a separate move, Bridgestone and Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de Bridgestone Joliette—a union affiliated with the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, which represents its facility in Joliette, Quebec—also reached a new labor contract covering about 1,100 employees. A company spokeswoman confirmed in an email that the deal has been ratified by the union. The six-year pact goes into effect Sept. 1 and will expire on Aug. 31, 2023.
The previous contract was set to expire on Aug. 31.