One Stateline Company, Union Bargain Talks Stall

By: Brad Broders
By: Brad Broders

For nearly 30 years, Rockford Powertrain employee Michael Higgs is proud of his company's accomplishments, but before he recommended the latest contract offer to UAW Local 803, something was missing.

"As a committee we said we can't back it, because this issue has to be met, but if it is, we're going to back it with flying colors," Higgs said.

That issue is the health insurance covered after an employee is laid off. The company proposed three months, but the union wants six, and is standing firm. Powertrain's negotiators say they're disappointed and surprised with the 84 to 56 no vote, in an offer that included a $1,500 signing bonus.

"We feel it was a good contract offer, and it would have been a win-win for both the company and Local 803," industrial relations manager Terry Kittle said.

Powertrain negotiators acknowledge that at least five people are likely to be laid off this Friday, part of an expected 80 layoffs in the coming months. With that in mind, the union argues they're fighting for Powertrain's younger workers that could soon be on the streets.

"How in the world can you afford not to have insurance. I mean, they're always getting sick or whatever, that would just devastate somebody that's on a fixed income, especially on unemployment," Higgs said.

Powertrain leaders stand firm that the offer was fair and wide-reaching in all areas, including health coverage.

"This package that we put together is a lot of money, and three months of additional health service can be anywhere from 50-thousand dollars and up for the company," Kittle said.

A stickler that’s holding up a yes vote, and holding up business as usual for workers and its union at Rockford Powertrain.


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