Local 338 is an amalgamated union representing four separate bargaining units: Kaiser Aluminum - production/maintenance and clerical/technical workers, Kaiser Alutek workers, and LB Foster pre-cast/railroad ties division workers. We number more than 1000 private sector members who work primarily in manufacturing industries in North Eastern Washington.

 

 
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Production & Maintenance
Chuck conrad

 

Changing Times

As the New Year rolls around, members are faced with “new” challenges. One in particular, is “lay-offs”. Lay-offs have been very rare for many years. Many members have never experienced being laid off. Members who have been at Kaiser since the 1970’s and 1980’s remember when this was the norm for people with less than 5 years’ seniority. This often happened to young people with families of small children who least could afford the wage disruption. Past members have taken this situation seriously and addressed it through contract negotiations by having sub-pay language to assist those who have a couple of years’ seniority. Unfortunately, this will not help more junior employees. I want to encourage members who are getting ready for retirement to give serious consideration and get the process started as quickly as will fit each individual’s circumstance. Remember to come by the hall and inquire about participating in any good and welfare activities that may be helpful for the membership. Please talk with your brothers and sisters who are affected by these lay-offs and let them know you care. Keep in touch and be an avenue for information to and from them. Remember to think about good and welfare ideas that could answer needs.

Be encouraged that the situation may be short-lived. Upcoming retirements should resolve much of the situation as we move through the year. The reason given is that orders are down. The window for projected orders is not very long and within a few weeks there could be a change. The company is pressured to act quickly when a drop is detected. The pressure comes from a need to answer to any shortfall between sales and costs at the end of each month. Sales levels sub-par to costs that occur several months in a row can be a concern for investors. Present times have businesses looking at the bottom line on too short a term basis. This is not good for workers. Workers’ wages end up being the “bank account” drawn from to pay for short down cycles. If orders suddenly go up, workers will be needed to get the metal through the plant. A longer term view seems more logical but the fickle stock investor rules the show.

As I talk to members I am told of examples where metal is not being moved because of lack of manpower. This is occurring even as only a few lay-offs have just started. Accelerating retirements will also cause a need for training. Shortage of people in certain classifications, inadequately trained and untrained people - all are forces that will hinder the movement of metal through the plant during the present month and future months. Managers have a tough call to make. We will not see it as the right call quite often. We, the membership, are the individuals who can make any situation better. We may have to do it in spite of decisions we believe hinder us. Keep pointing out wrong decisions but always have a better suggestion. Train hard and efficiently, both trainer and trainee. Keep teaching and learning, for safety’s sake, long after the sign off. The better we do at bridging the end of the month gap, the better we can keep our brothers and sisters off the lay-off list.   

 

The more things change the more things stay the same.


In Solidarity,
Chuck Conrad
P&M Unit Chair