"This is pure corporate greed. They just want to make more money," said one of the workers at the recent Connecticut AFL-CIO convention. Anger is high on the shop floor and workers are mobilized. Despite the millions of dollars the two operations have made for P&W and UTC, the company says it is moving for even higher profits.
After weeks of talks in which the union offered major concessions to keep the jobs in Connecticut, the company, which produces and maintains jet engines for commercial and military aircraft, announced it would not change its plans. The repair facility in Cheshire is slated to close by 2011 and a smaller repair unit in East Hartford is slated to close next year.
A "Workplace Guarantees Clause" in the union contract requires the company to meet with the union and make every reasonable effort to preserve work. The lawsuit has been filed on the basis that the company's decision was made prior to those talks.
In 1999 the IAM won a similar suit to save parts repair work in the East Hartford plant. In a dramatic result, trucks on their way to Texas had to turn around and replace the equipment in the East Hartford plant, where the work continues today. Union leaders say they expect to win this lawsuit as well.
State Treasurer Denise Nappier has called upon the top executives at UTC to reduce their compensation to save the 1,050 jobs at Pratt and the probable 5,000 additional jobs that would be lost in a ripple effect. She said the $20 million additional savings the corporation is seeking can be found in the $70 million compensation received by the company's top five executives in 2008.
During negotiations the union offered $80 million in wage cuts and other savings to the company and the State of Connecticut offered $100 million in assistance over five years.
On Sept. 22 union leaders were joined by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal at a press conference announcing the legal challenge to stop Pratt's plans to eliminate the Connecticut repair shop jobs. They emphasized that the company had apparently made its decision prior to the meet-and-confer process and never seriously considered any other alternatives.
At the biennial convention of the Connecticut AFL-CIO earlier this month, a resolution of solidarity was unanimously passed, calling for an investigation into the flight of capital. To revitalize manufacturing in this country, the resolution urged support for the TRADE Act introduced to Congress this year, which would set new rules for U.S. trade pacts including enforceable labor standards.
Speaking from the floor, IAM leader Bill Shortell said this latest attempt to take a third of the remaining workforce out of the state and country by a profitable company receiving government contracts is being opposed by the entire congressional delegation. "We need legislative tools," he said. "The multinationals have no nation. The Trade Act must be passed. Corporations must be controlled."
Ron Front, who works in the Middletown P&W plant, emphasized, "This affects every single one of us. We have to stop them now. Sending work overseas is unacceptable."
Sal Luciano, president of AFSCME Council 4, called for a strong message to the company. He said, "Pratt & Whitney is threatening to take the jobs to Japan and Singapore. Both have universal health care. It is happening to the rest of us, cutting down to the bottom."
The convention also unanimously passed a resolution in support of single-payer health care and held a rally demanding passage of health care reform with a public option.