JACKSON, MI – Journeymen at Miller Tool & Die Co. are on strike Thursday after contract negations stalled.
The three-year contract for the 19 journeymen expired, and the company was unwilling to negotiate further with the union, Thurman Crider, business representative for the International Association of Machinists said.
Around 15 people held signs saying, “Employees on strike” Sept. 17, outside of the company, 829 Belden Road. The company opened in 1930 and the union’s only other strike was in the early 1970s.
Miller Tool & Die Co.’s best and final offer included ending the pension, an increase to health insurance premiums and a wage freeze, Crider said.
“Everything is important,” Local 435 President Jamie Miller said. “But a pension, you don’t mess with that.”
Miller said he has no affiliation with the company owners.
Miller Tool & Die Co. did not respond to request for comment.
Negotiations are usually tough, but an agreement is typically reached, Crider said. This round of negotiations lasted three days, instead of the typical five.
Local 435 Financial Officer Eric Saban was part of the negotiations, and while the company may have acted legally, it was not in a productive way, he said.
“I don’t really feel that they negotiated in good faith,” Saban said. “I don’t feel like they negotiated. They didn’t want to hear anything we wanted to say.”
Ending the pension is more than half the reason the union voted to strike, multiple members said. The pension is a big reason that people work at Miller Tool & Die Co., since many Jackson-area businesses don’t offer one, former Local 435 President Randy Ramirez said.
The company provides a 401k but does not match contributions, Ramirez said. He said many employees have kids, which makes the pension even more meaningful to them.
“We want our pension,” he said. “It’s very important to us.”
During negotiations, the union asked for a raise of 50 cents an hour to help offset the increased cost of health insurance. The union also offered to split the increased cost for health insurance, if the company was unwilling to pay the whole increase, Saban said.
The union is willing to negotiate as soon as the company is, Miller said.
“A strike helps nobody,” Miller said. “It doesn’t help this company and it doesn’t help us.”
The union employees will be on strike until negotiations resume, Miller said.
“We can’t afford to be on strike, but we can’t afford to not be on strike,” he said.
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