Before the Feb. 12 strike, the company, a subsidiary of French multinational Saint-Gobain, was insisting that workers drop the union-affiliated health insurance trust and instead enroll in a company-sponsored self-insured plan. The union plan has a $200 annual deductible, while the company plan carries a $2,500 deductible; even after a proposed $800 annual contribution to an employee health savings account, that would have made health care much less affordable. Wages at the factory range from about $16 an hour for new hires to as high as $33.40 for experienced mechanics, and the average is about $21 an hour.
Also, eight years ago, explains Local 320 Business Manager Dave Tischer, CertainTeed ended contributions to the traditional defined benefit pension plan, and asked employees to enroll in its 401(k) plan instead, with an understanding that the company would later match employee contributions. But in bargaining this year, company negotiators balked at offering the match.
When the previous three-year contract expired, the union gave 10-day strike notice, and the company reacted: It began to ship product out to a Seattle warehouse in preparation for a strike. The strike halted that.
Workers walked out at 10 a.m., and maintained pickets outside the factory at 6350 NW Front Ave. Tischer said participation was 100 percent. Pickets drew honks of support from passersby on busy Front Avenue, and at 5:20 p.m., labor and management shook hands on a new company offer, with even better terms than the union’s proposal had contained before the strike. Ratification was unanimous.
Wages will increase 7.5 percent over the course of the new five-year contract. The company will match workers’ 401(k) contributions up to 4 percent of salary. And they get to keep the union-affiliated health plan.