Solvay Kalamazoo Members Approve Contract With Numerous Gains

Local 220 in Kalamazoo, Mich., negotiated a three-year contract with Solvay management that members ratified unanimously on Feb. 6.

Local 220 Unit President Karl Wallace said the membership approved the contract because of a number of factors and not just the agreement itself. He cited the local coming out of a pandemic year and the company’s attitude, which showed sensitivity to the needs of the union.

“The attitude the company presented in front of us—their spirit, demeanor and professionalism—was phenomenal. I’ve been on several negotiations and this was by far the best one,” Wallace said. “The attitude wasn’t adversarial. We disagreed on some things, but worked them out for the betterment of all of us.”

Nine employees are in the bargaining unit, working in maintenance, the lab and production operations. The site makes a resin base for Boeing.

The local bargained for only three days before reaching an agreement. The deal includes wage increases of 2 percent the first year, 2.65 percent the second year and 2.75 percent the third year, along with an $800 signing bonus. The contract expires Feb. 26, 2024.

The contract contains new vacation language that allows workers to use 10 half days or five full days without giving the required 16-hour notice. Also, workers have two paid personal days. Wallace said this enables workers to take care of sick children, handle daycare issues or other personal items that crop up.

“We asked the company to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a paid holiday. Without debate, the company agreed to that, and I felt that was significant as well,” Wallace said. “We did not have to give up another holiday; we got that in addition to our current holidays.”

Other contract gains included improved funeral leave, adding union business to hours worked when calculating overtime and vacation time; increasing the dollar amount of gift certificates for six months without any unexcused absences, and receiving an additional fire retardant Carhartt coat.

Other gains

D2 Staff Rep. Terry Newton said the union added to the contract the discipline and attendance policy language that was previously in the company handbook, and defined the disciplinary and attendance steps more clearly.

With only one employee having two years of service and the rest with over 25 years of seniority, the union and company created an incentive for bringing in younger workers. If a union employee gives six months’ notice for retirement, the person receives $1,000 and the new hire has at least five months to shadow the senior worker and obtain training and knowledge about the production process.

Currently, Solvay wants to hire at least one maintenance person and another production worker, Newton said.

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