Tennessee UAW Local defeats lockout

Locked out since Sept. 2, 2002, some 250 Peterbilt truck workers in Madison, Tenn., return to work July 2, having defeated company proposals to increase their health care costs up to 300 percent. “We’re very happy to be going back to work, but we’re not happy with this company or the way they treated our members,” said Mike Pardue, president of United Auto Workers Local 1832.

PACCAR, the Bellevue, Wash.-based company that owns Peterbilt, made $372 million last year. It raised executive salaries by $2.4 million, but offered Peterbilt workers only a 22 cent pay increase.

“As soon as our labor agreement expired, they slammed the door on us,” said Pardue. “We offered to extend our old agreement, or even to work without an agreement while we continued negotiations, but they weren’t interested.”

Pardue told the World during the lockout that PACCAR might have other motives for locking out the Peterbilt workers. “I feel they’re trying to bust the union,” Pardue said. “But we’re still pretty strong here. And we’re going to stay that way.”

PACCAR agreed to end the lockout after a nationwide UAW campaign for justice at Peterbilt. On May 30, 20 UAW locals around the country held a national day of action in support of the locked-out workers, rallying in Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Georgia, California, Maryland, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Washington.

UAW Region 8 Director Gary Costeel had asked members in his region, which includes Tennessee and 10 other southeastern states, not to do business with Bank of America, the largest institutional shareholder in PACCAR.

During the lockout, PACCAR continued to make about 63 to 70 trucks a day at its non-union plant in Denton, Texas, according to Pardue.

The workers’ victory was bittersweet. Only 250 of the more than 750 members of UAW Local 1832 will be able to return to work in July. The remaining 500 were given layoff notices one week before the lockout began last September, as a result of a decline in truck sales. And while the increase in health insurance premiums will be limited to no more than 10 percent per year, the new agreement increases health insurance deductibles and requires workers to pay additional health insurance premiums.

The author can be reached at jwendland@politicalaffairs.net