February 21, 2008: Ready mix drivers in the metro Louisville area have won a new contract that keeps them in the Central States Pension Fund—despite the company’s threat to replace their defined-benefit pension with a 401(k).
Local 89 members at Irving Materials Inc. started gearing up a year early to head off the pension threat and win improvements in their contract.
“We went through the contract line-by-line and wrote better language,” explained Louis Bowling, an IMI driver and elected member of the bargaining committee. “We gave it to our BA and told him that’s what we want in our new contract.”
“Management tested the waters to see if they could get us out of Central States. Most of their other facilities in southern Indiana are under a 401(k),” said Bowling. “But IMI doesn’t have the deep pockets of UPS—we knew it would be a lot harder for them to write the check to get out of the fund.”
The elected members of the bargaining committee built a rank-and-file network to let members know what was going on in bargaining and to challenge the pension grab.
Members Stand Together
“Management tried to play hard-ball. They put a weak deal on the table and told us it was their last, best, and final offer,” Bowling said. “When we told the membership, the word went around that we would never let this contract pass. And the company came back with a better offer.”
On Feb. 7, members voted to approve an improved two-year deal that protected their pension and health and welfare and increased their wages by $1.20 over the life of the agreement.
The new contract also contained many of the new work-rule changes that the drivers had proposed, including language that makes the company call the drivers the night before if they are going to work the next day—a big improvement for drivers who used to be on-call every weekday.
“Everything came together for us,” said Phil Pennington, a driver on the negotiating team. “We had a big pour at a power plant, and the company didn’t want to risk disrupting that. Plus, the cost of our health and welfare actually went down for the first year of our new contract. Members stood together, and we were able to win a good contract because all of these things.”
“This two-year deal puts us in line to expire with three other IMI plants in southern Indiana. Right now we all work under different contracts,” Pennington said. “In the long run we can push for a common agreement with all those plants. And now is the time to start organizing the nonunion concrete plants too, and get us all working under the same standards.”