2600 E. 7th St. Austin, Texas 447-4701 later in the day with his answers. The union argues that the Vought contract offered last March asked for take-aways at a time when the company was profitable \(Vought made $67 milasked workers to pay a higher share on some health benefits, and the major sticking point it took away the workers’ cost-of-living adjustment of the annual raise, says local union president Carroll Butler. “That’s a loss for the rest of your working life at the company,” he says. Jim Croslin, Vought’s public relations man, who says the workers average about $26,000 a year, claims the COLA hurts the company. Vought offered a four percent across-the-board increase instead of the COLA, on top of the seven percent increase all workers already were entitled to. “He’s their P.R. man,” Butler responds. “He doesn’t know beans about what that contract does.” If there were a seven percent increase as well as a four percent raise, he says, “we probably would have bought that.” The loss of the COLA would mean a loss of $3,000 to $4,000 to each employee over the three-year life of the contract, according to Kinney. But Croslin maintains that the proposal was “beneficial to everybody.” The company’s problem with the COLA is the uncertainty of it. “As a subcontractor we feel we have to have predictability a guaranteed wage level to remain competitive,” he said. Union officials say the contracts the military firms have with the Pentagon allow them to be reimbursed for costof-living increases paid to the workers. Issues other than the financial ones have become just as important to some union members. At a time when LTV is constructing a posh office building in Dallas, and when LTV Chairman of the Board Raymond Hay has praised Vought’s profitability to stockholders, union workers complain that they seem complete personal and business Insurance ALICE ANDERSON AGENCY 808-A East 46th P.O. Box 4666, Austin 78765 to come last in the eyes of the company. They see the 64 firings as selective actions against the more vocal union members. \(Vought’s Croslin retorts, “All firings are selective. What do they DICK BRADBERRY was fired last May 23. “Our program was ‘No contract, no over time,’ ” he explains. He was given a written warning after he refused overtime once. The second time he was fired along with three others. “It was strictly selective,” he says. “They knew where I stood.” Loretta Bell lost her job at Vought two days later. She had been, as she put it, “instrumental” in leading the singing of “Solidarity” at a noontime union rally May 17. When she returned late from lunch she was issued a written warning. The next week, after attending another union rally, she was fired. “They said I was responsible for disrupting the production,” she said. “I said, well, that was pretty severe.” “I was fired for singing ‘Solidarity,’ ” Bell says, laughing. “I won’t live that one down.” Joe Silva, a fourteen-year veteran at Vought, had a similar run-in in June and was fired along with 47 others. As he tells it, after a noon rally, the company sent security guards down and “marched us through the plant, on display.” The workers were led to the Labor Relations office, where a company official said he was sorry it had to happen this way. The workers returned the company’s tools and were led out the gate. “They figured if they could shut me up, the rest of them and they were younger ones would shut up, too. And to a certain extent, it’s worked,” Silva says. “Everyone’s walking on eggshells down there.” Bradberry and Silva ran into further problems. They were arrested by Dallas police on October 19 while collecting for the union fund that has been supporting the fired workers. “We had been collecting money for 17 weeks on Friday afternoons,” says union president Butler. “They threw up some No Trespassing signs Friday morning. We tried to collect our funds, and 16 people were arrested.” “They said, ‘We’re gonna have to arrest ya,’ ” Silva remembers. “We said, ‘Well, maybe so.’ And they did!” He says going to jail was a harrowing experience. “I’m fifty years old and never seen the inside of a jail. I would not wish that on my worst enemy.” All the union members were bailed out by three a.m. They have filed suit charging the arrests were a violation of their right to free speech and free assembly. Vought says the workers were on private property; the workers see it as government property and maintain that others on the property were not arrested. “Just like we were selectively fired, we were selectively arrested,” says Bradberry. “That’s the kind of company we’re dealing with.” Croslin says there were “incidents” that provoked the company to call the police, but he would not elaborate. After the union promised not to harass other workers, they were allowed to resume the Friday afternoon solicitations. The fired workers get $99 a week from the Solidarity Fund and $100 a week from a national UAW fund. Bradberry says some workers with families to support aren’t making it and have sought other work. He knows of at least one highly skilled worker who has tried to get in at General Dynamics and Bell, without success. “It’s like being blackballed,” says Bradberry. Loretta Bell, who is married and has one son, says, “It tends to be a problem [for someone in her position] to get employment. You can’t lie, when you fill out those applications, and they ask what your last job was, and why you got fired.” Bradberry, who is 41, has a son in college to support. “If it hadn’t been for union-negotiated benefits, I’wouldn’t have been able to educate them [his children]. Someone did this kind of thing 30 years ago,” he says. Bell says her unemployment has hit her 14-year-old son the hardest because he is learning to go without some things he’s been used to. But “this house is union,” she says. “My husband is union, and I guess my son has attended as many union meetings as I have. So when he gets down, I just kind of remind him and say maybe one day he’ll grow up to be a union president.” Union official Kinney says what the dispute amounts to is LTV taking money from its employees to subsidize its steel losses. LTV bought Republic Steel last year and is reported to be losing money. Others in the union hold President Reagan responsible for their troubles, even though he has continued the massive military buildup that aids their industry. “I think it started with PATCO and it’s come on down,” says Bradberry. Union president Carroll Butler puts it like a union president: “It was a time to take on the union, with a friend in the White House and things as they are . . . But we’re gonna be here if it takes ten more months.” 8 JANUARY 25, 1985
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