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PITTSBURGH, July 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that the members of USW Local 8-675 in Covington, Virginia have voted in favor of a proposed new contract with MeadWestvaco. The overwhelming ratification vote took place on Wednesday, July 1, 2009.

The new agreement includes $2,600 in cash bonuses and over 16% in general wage increases over the course of its six-year term. Improvements to the defined benefit pension plan raise the multiplier to $58 per month for each year of service, meaning that an employee who retires with 30 years of service would receive a monthly benefit of roughly $1,740 per month, a high-water mark in for workers in the paper industry.

USW International Vice President Jon Geenen, the union’s top official with responsibility for paper bargaining, said that this groundbreaking new agreement will raise the bar for the entire industry. Further, Geenen pointed out that the ratification vote itself should end any speculation about which union is best suited to represent the hourly production and maintenance employees at the mill.

‘After two years of strife and division, we believe that this contract, by virtue of the significant gains it establishes, will once again unite the members of Local 8-675,’ Geenen said. ‘We are scheduling a new local union officers’ election here in Covington that will create a structure inclusive of all views from every area of the mill to build an even stronger local union.’

Finally, Geenen said that the hard work of the local union negotiating team and the support and solidarity of the loyal USW members are what enabled the USW, which is still the only Board-recognized bargaining representative at the Covington mill, to conclude these negotiations so successfully.

‘We have waited a long time for a new contract because of the disaffiliation attempt that only hurt the community and our members,’ said Glenn Allen Hinkle, a USW member who has worked at the mill for 22 years. ‘With the best contract I’ve ever seen, it’s time to stop the infighting, quit looking backward and start moving forward.’

‘I’ve been working at the mill for 40 years, and this is an excellent contract by any standard,’ said Franklin Tucker, who works in the oiler department, ‘because everybody got something.’
The USW represents about 1.2 million active and retired members in the United States and Canada in a wide variety of industries, ranging from paper, steel, tire and rubber and other manufacturing environments to the public sector, service and health care industries.

For more information, contact: Luis Mendoza (USW) – (540) 998-9162