After nearly three days of striking, United Auto Workers Local 342 workers are still waiting for Lebanon TRW management to “come to the table,” according to a UAW representative.
“No one from the company has talked to the union since Sunday,” said Kevin Huddleston, UAW spokesperson and former Lebanon City Council member. “[TRW is] saying they’re in negotiations – that’s not true.”
TRW spokesperson John Wilkerson did not confirm or deny Huddleston’s assertion.
“I would say that TRW is willing to have further discussions with the UAW at any time,” said Wilkerson in response.
Huddleston also said the international union sent a certified letter to company management asking them to “come back to the table and talk.”
“Nobody wants to be out here,” said Huddleston. “Everybody wants to go back to work.”
As long as they are not working or receiving wages, the UAW pays striking workers $200 per week from the union’s strike fund.
“Families are suffering,” said Huddleston. “They’re going to suffer, but our membership knows why there out here and everybody understands.”
The current strike is the first in recent memory at Lebanon TRW.
“I do not know the last time there was a strike at Lebanon,” said Wilkerson. “I have been part of the TRW since 1999 and don’t recall any in that time.”
In 2008, UAW workers took $15 million worth of concessions during TRW negotiations to help reduce the financial hit the company was already taking during the recession, according to Huddleston.
“The company said they needed it to be competitive, and our membership was more than willing to help this company,” said Huddleston.
He said workers gave up not only wages and jobs, but also vacation time and insurance premiums, and workers’ pensions were frozen.
Now that the company’s profits are up and have been consistently, Huddleston said it’s time to move forward with gains.
“When I started in 1993, there were probably close to 600 people working on the floor, and I started at a little over $10 an hour. And 20 years later, you’re starting people at less than what I started at, plus you’re not even giving them any benefits,” said Huddleston, who said many workers are hired as temporary employees.
For those workers who do have benefits, insurance premiums for one family can be as high as $180 a week.
“We’re going backwards instead of forward,” said Huddleston.
As for how long Huddleston expects the strike, he said it depends on TRW.
“The company said they’re in negotiations, but they’re not,” said Huddleston. “This could probably get resolved pretty quick.”
Despite the strike, TRW is still producing steering systems for commercial vehicles, mainly tractor-trailers.
“We are committed to satisfying our customer contracts, so production is ongoing,” said Wilkerson.
Huddleston said strikers saw busloads of workers entering the facility.
“We don’t know what’s going on inside,” said Huddleston.
Wilkerson would not say where TRW found replacement workers.