Stanley Works machinists win contract gains

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – Machinists Union members voted by a three-to-one margin May 21 to end their strike against Stanley Works and accept a revised offer from management. Workers voted at a morning meeting here.

The new offer by Stanley management includes an additional pension increase, raises for 150 workers formerly excluded, reduced increases for prescription drugs, and new language to help curtail subcontracting of maintenance work within the plant.

The biggest boost to job security for Stanley workers came with the news that CEO John Trani stated his intention to retire. Under Trani, work has drained out of New Britain for sweatshops abroad, referred to by the company as “low cost countries.”

For the first time since 1968, Stanley Works came to a grinding halt on Mother’s Day night, May 10, as members of Machinist Local Lodges 1433 and 1249 of District 26 voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s final contract offer.

Workers young and old, men and women, of many races and nationalities, walked out in rain and thunder, determined to stand firm for job security. Within three days, local elected officials and union members from across the state staged a large support rally at the Curtis Street gate, in the very spot where protests last year stopped the company from moving its corporate address to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes.

Over the years workers have been downsized, New Britain has lost its tax base, and those still on the job have watched anxiously as the company shrank from 5,000 hourly workers to the current total of 450.

Stanley Works, an S&P 500 company, boasts on its website that “this is the 127th consecutive year in which the company has paid dividends, a record for industrial companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.” First-quarter dividends were up 8 percent over last year.

“After years of broken promises, rejected attempts to work cooperatively to save jobs, and layoffs after layoffs – we’ve reached our limit,” said the Hardware City Strike News put out by the striking locals. “Stanley Works would not listen. But now they must.”

The union members gathered wide support during their strike with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal speaking at a solidarity rally along with John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO. Olsen pointed to all the labor leaders present in the rally crowd who are also engaged in bitter labor battles with the State of Connecticut, Hartford cleaning contractors, Cintas Laundry and Yale University and Hospital.

Nearly every car honked in support of the strikers. One woman driver pulled over. “I got laid off in January,” she said. “I had to come by to show support.”

In a press statement released after the vote, Donald D’Amato, president of Machinist Local 1433, said, “We didn’t get everything we wanted. But we made gains. More important, we showed Stanley Works that they cannot take us for granted. We’ll return to work with our heads held high.”

The author can be reached at joelle.fishman@pobox.com