Strike improves job security at Pratt and Whitney

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. – An 11-day strike by 5,000 Pratt & Whitney workers, which brought airplane engine production to a halt, forced the company to improve job security protections for the next three years.

For the first time, the company, a division of highly profitable United Technologies Corp (UTC), was unable to foment divisions among workers at each of four plants in Connecticut.

In a year-long “Grow Connecticut” campaign, International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 91 reached out to its members on the shop floor and its allies in the labor movement and the community to stop Pratt’s exodus of jobs to non-union shops in other states and countries.

“The IAM already has new organizing leads across the country because of our stand,” said District 91 organizer John Harrity. “People in Connecticut have new respect for the labor movement because our goals included them. Our kids know that, for once, we walked a picket line instead of just grumbling – that’s a great lesson for them.”

The company agreed to keep more jobs and more job categories in Connecticut, and also agreed to a joint union – company apprenticeship program. Previous language prohibiting movement of jobs is retained, under which the union can go to court for enforcement. The company agreed to a joint committee to assess how work currently being vended out can be kept in-house.

In addition, the early retirement age was dropped from 58 to 55. However, the workers’ demand for increases in pension payments was not achieved. Workers won wage increases of 10 percent over three years (3.5 percent annually for two years and 3 percent in the third year), which will eventually bring the average hourly wage over $25.

Perhaps the biggest victory was the unity of the four separate locals. At one time the four locals negotiated separate contracts; they are now molded into one strong union.

Demands for job security were at the top of the list for workers at all four Connecticut plants, in the wake of massive job loss to non-union UTC plants.

At a special membership meeting Dec. 13, the District 91 negotiating committee reported that the company was “no longer smirking at the bargaining table” and that significant contract language improvements had been won ground job security. Workers voted 2,954 to accept the offer, with 999 against it.

The contract agreement maintains all 679 jobs in the Cheshire plant for the length of the contract and guarantees jobs for the 115 workers in the North Haven plant not yet reassigned when that plant ceases operation. The company agreed that work affecting 280 production workers at the East Hartford plant will not be moved until an equal amount of new work on the F119, estimated at 600 jobs, begins. They also agreed to review keeping the work in question in East Hartford and to give six months notice if they decide to move it.