Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, 09 April 2009 -- /PRNewswire/ -- United Steelworkers Union (USW) members at 25 Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) facilities announced today that they overwhelmingly ratified a five-year PCA/USW Box Facility Master Agreement. The contract will provide workplace stability for the company to attract new customers, and economic and contract protection for more than 1500 workers and their families.
"This agreement secures workers' livelihood at a time when companies are using the economic crisis to slash wages, pensions, and health care benefits," said Leo W. Gerard, USW International president. "It is a testament to the changes we made to bargain in this sector, even in a weak economy, and to the solidarity of our members."
The master agreement is the first of its type for PCA's box plants. Last year the USW reached a master agreement for the company's mill operations. Locations covered by the PCA/USW Box Facility Master Agreement are Denver, Colorado; Jacksonville and Winter Haven, Florida; Vincennes, Indiana; Marshalltown, Iowa; Grandville and Plymouth, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Liverpool, New York; Akron, Ashland, Middletown, and Newark, Ohio; Salisbury, North Carolina; Lancaster and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Newberry, South Carolina; Jackson and Mascot, Tennessee; Arlington and Garland, Texas; Richmond, Virginia; and Burlington, Colby, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin .
The master agreement sets the pattern in wages, benefits, and conditions of employment for contracts expiring in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and becomes effective upon the contract expiration dates. Contracts expiring in 2009 and 2010 will be renewed once for a five-year period. Those contracts with a 2011 expiration date will be automatically extended for two years.
Workers will receive wage hikes above the industry standard, solid improvements in the defined benefit pension plan multiplier, and substantial increases in short-term disability benefits and life/accidental death and dismemberment benefits. Best in industry medical and dental healthcare provisions are locked in through the term of the renewal agreement; some locations will see no changes in healthcare before 2015. Workers will continue to pay 20% of the premiums for healthcare insurance.
"This master agreement builds on the progress that we have made in the box industry, and it is the best agreement we've negotiated for such facilities since we began our coordinated bargaining program in 2005," said Jon Geenen, USW International vice president . "Through reaching master agreements like this with the industry leaders, we have effectively put a firewall around over 400 paper sector local unions that otherwise would be vulnerable in the worst economy since the Great Depression."
Upon ratification of the master agreement, a contract protection clause (successorship) immediately is inserted into each local union contract. This clause says that should a plant be sold, leased, transferred or assigned, the union's contract stays in effect through the contract expiration.
"It was essential that we receive successorship because the paper industry is in a constant state of change through consolidations, acquisitions and buyouts from private equity firms that take the assets and spin them off for profit," said Leeann Anderson, PCA council chair and assistant to the International president. "Now our members don't have to worry about losing their hard won wages, benefits and contractual protections if their plant is sold."
There is also a code of conduct in the master agreement regarding organizing campaigns. Just over half of PCA's facilities are organized. The code states that false or misleading statements, negative personal attacks, threats to close a facility and criticism of company officials' compensation or benefits will not be tolerated. Only factual information about policies, practices and procedures can be provided.
Local issues will still be negotiated between the local unions and management, but there will be no changes to the local contract except by approval of both parties.
For the first time in the history of bargaining for the PCA box facilities all local unions were involved in creating the pattern as opposed to one local or locals setting the pattern because their negotiations were first in a bargaining cycle.
"The PCA locals are united and they will be working further together over the next few years to enhance and strengthen their bargaining power," Anderson said.
The USW represents about 120,000 paperworkers and is the largest industrial union in North America. Overall it represents 850,000 workers in the pulp and paper, steel, rubber, oil, chemical, nuclear, mining, and service sectors.