Success stories inspire because they show the power to change lives and that change is so much sweeter when it’s due to solidarity.
IAM Local 459 (District 77) members in Minneapolis ratified a one-year agreement on August 2 that eliminates a divisive two-tier wage system at Culligan. A two-tier system pays one group of employees a higher rate than another for the same job classification.
“Everyone was pretty much on board,” said Shop Steward Kyle Lokkesmoe. “They all knew it had to go away. It wasn’t going to move ahead smoothly if we still had a two-tier pay scale in our shop.”
Lokkesmoe knew that he and other Tier 1 employees had to compromise.
“Those on the first tier were okay with maybe not getting exactly what they wanted to just have a one-tier shop,” said Lokkesmoe.
That flexibility made all the difference.
“It just showed that we were all in it together, doing the right thing,” Lokkesmoe said.
The company compromised, as well, by showing a willingness to sit down at the bargaining table, share financial information and work together to make it happen. Negotiations began in mid-July and lasted about two weeks.
IAM District 77 Directing Business Representative John Steigauf says the company hadn’t been following the two-tier wage structure anyway, so it was easier to argue the facts at the bargaining table.
“They were bringing people in above the starting rate,” said Steigauf.
The local pushed how unfair the system was and bombarded the company with facts.
“We started hammering on a fairness factor,” said Steigauf.
“I’m so proud of Local 459, District 77 and the strong membership at Culligan for achieving what they deserve,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “This shows what solidarity can mean for our members, families and communities.”
Business Representative Andrew Peltier says the biggest thing going into negotiations is finding out what the people want.
“You have to ask for what people want, be able to justify it and have a lot of strong arguments,” said Peltier.
Low-morale and animosity on the shop floor are now things of the past, as members look forward to continuing a relationship with Culligan that began with a first contract in 1967.
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