Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Striking Machinists, Mcdonnell Labor to Find Common Ground

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Striking Machinists, Mcdonnell Labor to Find Common Ground

Article excerpt

Labor Day in St. Louis marks Day 90 in the nation's largest strike, and the International Association of Machinists and McDonnell Douglas Corp. seem willing but unable to bring it to an end.

Each side blames the other for unwillingness to move on the main issue of the strike - some kind of protection for the jobs of the Machinists.

Each side says the other has a militant faction that is holding up progress in contract talks. Yet each side says it is willing to resume negotiations, a sign that compromise is possible. The strike began June 5 after contract talks between local union officials and company representatives broke off angrily. Negotiations resumed in late June. After just 11 sessions negotiations broke off again in mid-August. Despite a meeting in Washington last week by top national and regional union officials and company executives, no new negotiations are scheduled. Leaders of IAM District 837 say their 6,700 members struck McDonnell because they believe the company is determined to destroy their jobs. McDonnell's St. Louis plant employed nearly twice as many Machinists in 1990 as it does today. The company also has moved work to cheaper subcontractors and its own nonunion plants and exported work to Switzerland, Finland, Israel and elsewhere as part of its foreign sales. Executives of McDonnell Douglas say there will be no jobs for anyone at the company if it doesn't cut costs and make export dealsc. It isn't just Machinists who have lost jobs, the company says. Thousands of white-collar employees have seen their work disappear, too. Both sides agree that sporadic negotiations since June have made little progress. And on nearly everything else, the union and the company don't agree at all. The Union's Version Why can't the union settle with the company? "It's the issue of job security," said Gerald Oulson, president of Machinists District 837. "They don't want to give it. We don't have any major disagreements other than job security," he said. "If that would fall into place, several other issues would fall into place along with it." Oulson said the contract talks stumble every time the union raises the issue of job protection, and he says the company either misunderstands or distorts what the Machinists want. "They have a concern with the word `guarantee,' and that is not what we are asking for," Oulson said. "There is a different meaning between a guaranteed job and a secure job. "Job guarantee means a job for life. A secure job means that as long as the company has work, our people will perform the work." Oulson said the two sides did make some progress on outsourcing, a factor that profoundly affects job security. Outsourcing is the practice of taking work done by Machinists and giving it to cheaper, typically nonunion subcontractors. The Machinists lose their jobs. …

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