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Latest News - November 2011

November 17, 2011
Crane company to lay off workers With machinists on strike, Manitowoc Co. furloughs 165 workers
Source: Journal Sentinel
By: Rick Barrett

Manitowoc Cranes is laying off 156 boilermakers union workers as a result of the machinists strike this week at the plant in Manitowoc.

The boilermakers were told not to report to work next Monday due to the strike, according to the union.

About 200 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers went on strike earlier this week after voting to reject a proposed four-year labor contract.

No further contract talks have been scheduled, although the company says a federal mediator will probably be used to settle the dispute.

Machinists say Manitowoc Cranes is trying to weaken organized labor.

"This (contract) proposal is nothing more than union busting," said Benito Elizondo, IAM District 10 business representative.

"The company proposed eliminating long-standing contract language requiring any employee who benefits from negotiated wages and benefits to become a member of the union that negotiated those benefits," Elizondo said.

The proposal "virtually guaranteed the contract would be rejected and the strike would take place," he added.

Manitowoc Co.'s crane division employs 800 people making industrial and construction cranes. The company also has a food-service equipment division.

"Regrettably, we did issue layoff notices as a result of the walk-off on Monday," said Thomas Musial, senior vice president-human resources and administration.

Neither company nor union officials have said much publicly about the rejected contract, but there appears to be distrust on both sides.

"In our opinion, Local 516 representatives are not providing rank-and-file members with accurate information regarding certain bargaining issues, and as a result are misrepresenting the company's offer," Musial said.

The company, Musial said, wants to amicably resolve all outstanding issues at the bargaining table.

Both sides say they are willing to resume negotiations.

"While there was agreement on many issues, the company proposed new language toward the end of the negotiations that was absolutely unacceptable," Elizondo said.

Manitowoc says it has a contingency plan to continue crane production during the strike, although it's unknown if more layoffs are coming. The recent machinists' contract expired Oct. 31, but union members continued to work under its terms until Monday.

The strike came a few weeks after the company recalled about 300 people from layoff.

In 2003, about 120 machinists at Manitowoc Cranes went on strike for less than a week after rejecting a five-year contract proposal. Key issues then were more about contract language than salary and benefits. A federal mediator was involved in settling that dispute.



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