Kennametal, union agree to negotiate

  • Donna Stern, who helped rally the nurses at the Baystate Franklin Medical Center during their last contract negotiations, speaks in favor of the workers at Kennametal in Greenfield on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Union workers picket Kennametal on North Street in Greenfield on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Union workers picket Kennametal in Greenfield on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Chad McGinnis, international representative of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, rallies union workers on strike at Kennametal in Greenfield on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/14/2019 10:18:13 PM

GREENFIELD — After three days of striking, negotiations between the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 274 union and Kennametal will begin next week.

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, those on strike will be go back to work.

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 274 has been on strike since Sunday evening. Members expressed frustration with the current contract proposal they say will force overtime, significantly increase deductibles for health insurance plans, not provide a livable wage increase and bring a steady flow of temporary workers into the Greenfield plant.

“We have been negotiating with the union for five months in good faith with the intent of reaching an agreement that is fair and improves the overall competitiveness of our facility,” wrote Christina Sutter, director of corporate communications, in an email. “Kennametal remains interested in reaching a new agreement with the union.”

Kennametal is a supplier of tooling and industrial materials. Founded in 1938, it employs approximately 10,000 people around the globe serving customers in more than 60 countries. In fiscal year 2018, the company reported sales of nearly $2.4 billion, according to its website.

Chad McGinnis, international representative of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said the union has been fighting to defend its contract since 1941.

“Our key demand of this strike was that the company must return to contract negotiations with us and bargain in good faith,” McGinnis said. “I’m proud to say the company has agreed to return to bargaining with us beginning next Tuesday.”

He added that if the union doesn’t get a deal, the workers will go back on strike.

On Wednesday evening, protest songs were played by Ben Grosscup and chants of “Who are we? UE!” over speakers attracted a crowd of about 40. As part of the rally, McGinnis said he wanted to thank the community that backed the union.

“A big thanks to the community that has supported us and we are in turn defending,” McGinnis said. “Remember this strike isn’t just about us, it’s about all workers. It’s about defending our community. And we’re going to win.”

He added that the union has filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.

Community members supporting the striking workers included Greenfield city councilors Karen “Rudy” Renaud, Douglas Mayo and Sheila Gilmour. Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution also supported the strike.

Over the past few days, people have dropped off food, coffee or doughnuts. The strikers were also given discounted when they purchased pizzas, according to union member Katie Lafferty.

The last time Kennametal’s unionized workers authorized the right to strike was in the 1980s. About 500 workers were employed at the industrial plant. Shortly thereafter, they went on strike.

Bob Gilmore of Greenfield said there were two occasions when the union went on strike — once in 1980 and again in 1983.

“In 1980, we went on strike for four weeks and in 1983, we went on strike for 17 weeks,” Gilmore said.

Fred Williams of Turners Falls said he is a fourth-generation worker whose great-grandfather worked for the company when it was under previous ownership.

“Striking has been a struggle, but everyone came together and stayed strong — 100 percent participation,” Williams said. “No one crossed the line. I’m happy to get back to the negotiation table, we need a deal. Nobody wins in strikes, everyone loses.”

Marc Avery of Chicopee said the members are a fantastic group.

“One thing I like about being in a union is that you have a voice with corporations,” he said. “I’ve worked in the private sector for 30 years and everything was told to us, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’ At least now you have a chance to keep what you have.”

McGinnis said he considers the result of the strike to be a win, but there is more work to be done.

“You’ve accomplished something, but the war is not over yet,” McGinnis said. “You won the first key battle. ... They’re coming back to bargain with us. They know what the consequences are of not getting a fair deal with this union.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at
mbourdeau@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 263.




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