IAM inks pact at high-tech Siemens Solar

VANCOUVER, WA -- Employees at Siemens Solar Industries, 12016 NE 95th -- new members of Machinists Lodge 1374 -- ratified a first-ever collective bargaining agreement, announced Business Representative Don Wheeler.

The five-year contract, effective Oct. 1, provides for an 11 percent wage increase over the life of the contract, merit increases based on years with the company and learning new high-tech skills, union security language and work policy improvements that will ease mandatory overtime.

Wages start at around $7.50 an hour and top out at $22, said Wheeler. As employees learn new equipment they will receive higher pay, as much as 65 percent increases in some instances.

Last February the union organized 65 workers at the company, which grows silica and shapes specialized ingots for solar cells that are used in solar panels and other products. The plant operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Wheeler said the company initially fought the union organizing drive "tooth and nail." It vowed to keep union security language out of the first contract.

But over the course of bargaining the company changed its tune, Wheeler explained. "They said we had been professional and able to compromise, and for that we earned it (to have union security)," Wheeler told the Northwest Labor Press.

"We feel it's a big step forward in organizing the high-tech industry," said Jerry Greer, Machinists grand lodge representative for the western territory based in Sacramento. "Other facilities like Siemens are looking to organize as a result of what–s been done in Vancouver."

Greer, a former business agent of Machinists District Lodge 24 and first vice president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, headed the Machinists negotiating team.

Siemens' employee Mike Matthews assisted Greer and Wheeler on the bargaining committee. Wheeler said it may be called "high-tech, but the industry is low paying with high employee turnover."

He said the Machinists hope the union contract at Siemens will help stabilize the company's high employee turnover rate. The bargaining unit consists of production, maintenance and warehouse personnel that include such job titles as crystal growers, rock checkers, crop-grind-and-slab workers, poly-prep (shaping the crystals) machinery maintenance personnel, and shippers.

Siemens grows the crystals to lengths of three to five feet and four inches in diameter, Wheeler explained. The cylindrical crystals are cleaned, chopped into squares, packaged and shipped to a plant in California, which grinds the material into wafers that are used to make solar cells.

In other Machinists news, Wheeler also reported a contract settlement at Mount Trailer Co., 6364 NE 63rd, Portland. A dozen members of the Machinists Union ratified a four-year deal that provides for a 12.5 percent wage increase, a 20-cent per hour hike in employer pension contributions, an extra holiday and improved medical and dental plans.

Mount Trailer repairs truck trailers.


Nov. 7, 1997 issue

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