As of Sunday Thomas is on strike. The vote on Sunday was 18 for the contract and 530 against it, so it wasn't even a little bit close. The news is reporting that the strike is over the healthcare benefits portion of the contract, but that isn't entirely true. It is, at least for the union members I know, more a matter of some of the wording in the contract which would seem to allow the company to discontinue or make changes to the healthcare benefits at its own discretion at any time during the contract term. This was a bit of sneaky wording that we had never seen in the contracts before, and because of some of the other sneaky things the company has pulled over the past year, this is a matter of great concern.
Thomas was really torn on this contract. He told me on Friday that for the first time ever (and he's been with this company for 14 years -- 11 straight, and then for the past three after a five year period where he was working for another company) he was actually considering not voting at all. He said that as far as he could see at that time, voting either for the contract or against it would be possibly jeopardizing his family. That is the way Thomas thinks, and I have, over the years, learned to trust his judgment when it comes to things like this.
He went to the meeting on Sunday to hear everything, and he came home with the conviction that the rank and file could not in good conscience vote for this contract. The company says it is their "best and final" and that the ball is in the union's court. Well, we'll see. I've heard that before. It also irritated workers and their families that the company sent a letter of propaganda to everyone's home, mailing it so that we got it on the Friday before the vote.
I was a bit amused to see on the news that the company's response to the healthcare benefits question is that all of their other non-union employees, which would include management, office, foremen, etc., have the very same benefits that we are being offered in the contract.
That isn't even a reasonable argument. Those non-union employees didn't have any choice, did they, other than to not accept any benefits at all? That's why there is a union, so that things like that can be negotiated for the benefit of all.
Make no mistake -- we don't trust the company OR the union any further than we can throw them. As far as I'm concerned, there are crooks on both sides. But sometimes you have to make a decision for your family, based on whether or not you are going to let someone (company) get away with something, and it has nothing to do with any perceived loyalties to either the company or the union. As Thomas says, he doesn't owe either of them any loyalty, only his family.
Thomas is a hard worker, and an honest one, and he has always managed to care for his family if times get hard. And I'm not exactly unable to work, myself! So we'll see how long this strike lasts and then go from there. We do have options.
Several years ago there was a strike, and when they went back to the tables to re-negotiate we thought they came out with a pretty good compromise. The rank and file voted against it again, and even though Thomas was irritated and in disagreement with the majority, he did not, of course, cross the picket line. There would be no question of that at this time, either, even he hadn't agreed with the vote.
But, hey, it's Spring, and Eler Beth is getting to go fishing just about every day with her dad! We have several pounds of bass and catfish in our freezer, thanks to those trips. I've prayed about the situation, and we've made practical plans. Now it's a matter of throwing our burdens on God, doing our own part, and playing the waiting game.