A contract, but how much security?

Tom Mobry and his fellow Teamsters on Sunday voted more than two to one to approve a new contract with Honeywell International. Odds are it didn’t rate a mention in your newspaper. But there are some deeper economic issues here that need exploring.

I’ve been talking to Mobry the past couple of weeks leading up to the contract vote. He’s a technician who troubleshoots and repairs aircraft navigation equipment for Honeywell, once one of the giants of Twin Cities manufacturing.

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It’s the kind of work that in normal economic times might easily sustain a household. These days it’s no guarantee.

When his wife’s hours were reduced, Mobry, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network, needed a second job. He’s working in a liquor store to help make ends meet.

The emails he’s sent the past couple weeks offer a diary of hopes and worries easily understood in this recession.

“The health of unions in this country is not very well considering there isn’t a lot negotiating power on our side,” he told me Sunday after the vote. “Unemployment is so high that companies can threaten to move or just hire someone else.”

He wanted to make clear he was speaking only for himself. He’s better off than many in Minnesota manufacturing, which has lost 33,000 jobs the past 12 months, more than any sector.

But he raises good questions: How much security can we expect in our jobs? What kind of leverage do unions hold these days?

Take a look at Mobry’s thoughts below, which I’ve edited for space. Then send me your thoughts on all these questions.

Jan 11: My union contract with my employer expires at the end of January and they have shown a glimpse of what to expect by handing out leaflets describing how expensive it is to have us as employees, i.e. wages, pension, vacation, and health benefits.

The threat to move our work to Puerto Rico is always there and they have moved some non-critical work there. I expect a decrease in wages and my expenses are not decreasing. Taxes will be going up in 2010 as well. I have already taken a second job to help make ends meet but I fear it is not going to be enough to maintain my mortgage, utilities, or general living expenses.

Jan 21: Most everybody is anxious at this point but this may be the most crucial contract we have ever had to vote on. The general consensus is that it is not going to be favorable for us.

(At home), we are considering doing some “downsizing” of our own due to my wife’s hours being reduced, eliminating DirecTV, our land line, and not going out as often.

Jan. 29. I’m not sure how I’ll vote but with the economy as it is it would have to be a ridiculous offer to be worth going out on strike for.

We truly are becoming a nation divided between the “haves” and “have-nots” with the “haves” driving the working class to second world status… and they wonder why the economy is in the crapper.

Jan. 31, after the vote. It was not pretty but it wasn’t as bad as we expected.

In these days and times I am fortunate to have a job so I guess I can’t complain … At least I have the security of a 3 year contract and the option to take an early retirement if I choose (penalties apply).

I will still have to continue to work a part-time job to make ends meet because we took a wage freeze for this year and with the increase in our medical premiums it amounts to a pay cut.

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