3M Locals Mobilize to Beat Concessions, Make Contract Gains

Locals at 3M’s sites in Cottage Grove, Minn., and Tonawanda, N.Y., successfully overcame the company’s divisive tactics and beat back concessions during months of intense negotiations.

Their unity paid off as they gained increased wages and significant contract language improvements.

“It is clear the company came to the bargaining table intent on forcing us to accept a bad agreement by making this process longer and more costly than necessary,” said USW Secretary Treasurer John Shinn, who heads the union’s chemical sector. “What they failed to consider was that the members of  this union never back down from a fight.

“Thanks to the support of this council, the bargaining committees’ leadership and the solidarity of the membership, we have new agreements that include none of the regressive, concessionary demands the company attempted to force on us.”

Cottage Grove contract gains

Negotiations for the Local 11-418 contract at Cottage Grove started June 8, 2020, for the 415 production and maintenance workers at the site, and ended when the membership ratified the company’s fourth proposal on April 13, 2021.

The four-year contract runs from March 1, 2021 through March 1, 2025. The local negotiated a $1,000 net signing bonus and 2.5 percent across-the-board annual hourly wage increases.

The agreement contains a new chemical utility operator position, which pays 10 percent above the top pay grade in the chemical department. Local 11-418 President Justin Recla said that about 25 percent of the membership will be in these new positions, which require work in three departments.

The local also successful fought against 3M’s unilateral change to a four-crew work schedule in November 2019. Recla said this change resulted in an average wage loss of $8,600 per year for each employee working 40 hours, not counting overtime.

“This schedule didn’t help the company,” Recla said. “It didn’t create more hours worked or help with flexibility, but it was a cost savings move for 3M.”

“It resulted in a terrible work-life balance. I never saw people so tired as I did on that schedule,” he added.

The local negotiated a 12-hour, four-crew rotation and an eight-hour, four-crew rotation that each department can vote on.

“This resolution ended the wage loss for members, and gives the membership a work-life balance so they can enjoy life at home,” said Local 11-418 Vice President Dan Murphy.

Both Recla and Murphy said the crew schedule, new chemical operator position and increased pay were the local’s biggest victories. But the bargaining committee and membership had to patiently whittle down management’s 100 non-economic proposals and engage in mobilization activities to get there.

Tonawanda gains

Local 13833 at 3M’s Tonawanda site confronted similar challenges in negotiating a new agreement.

Local 13833 President Lloyd Ziemer in Tonawanda, N.Y., said his local pressured management on the shop floor by telling managers they need a contract and placing signs with that message on their machines. “It got so bad the plant manager wouldn’t come down to the shop floor,” he said.

After 15 months of negotiations, Local 13833 members overwhelmingly ratified their four-year agreement the first week of April. The contract covers some 300 production and maintenance workers who make 3M sponges.

Members received 2.4 percent in retroactive pay, and the start of the contract was back-dated to December 2019. Upon ratification, members received a 2.5 percent raise. They will also get a 2.5 percent raise in December 2021 and 2022.

3M negotiators at this site also put forward close to 100 proposals. Local 13833 negotiators narrowed them down, and turned the company’s desire for flexibility to the union’s advantage by designating how often and how long converting department employees could be moved outside their area. Those moved receive a $1.50/hour wage upgrade. The local clarified bumping rights.

The union also negotiated improvements in the defined benefit pension, sickness and accident benefits, long-term disability, wage progression for new hires, bereavement leave, the ability to take vacation time in increments and the safety shoe allowance. Plus, it upgraded the pay for part-time, specialized trainers, and created a new maintenance apprenticeship program that will be negotiated within six months.

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