Steelworkers at Evergreen Packaging Overwhelmingly Approve Master Labor Agreement

Contact: Dan Flippo, District 9 Director, (205) 631-0137
             Lynne Baker, USW Communications, (o) 615-831-6782, (c) 615-828-6169

Pittsburgh—United Steelworkers union (USW) members at five Evergreen Packaging sites overwhelmingly approved Nov. 13 a five-year master labor agreement covering about 1,600 workers that features above-industry-standard wage increases and benefits.

“By sticking together, our members obtained an agreement that sets the foundation going forward on health care and gives much needed wage increases,” said USW District 9 Director Dan Flippo. “We’re really proud of the work the negotiating committee did. The solidarity they displayed along with the membership gave them an agreement that will benefit their families and their communities and help their company during this difficult economic time.”

The master labor agreement covers plants and mills located in Canton, N.C., Waynesville, N.C., Athens, Ga., Clinton, Iowa, and Olmsted Falls, Ohio. Each location bargained over local issues and has the same contract expiration as the master labor agreement: May 13, 2014.

Wages will increase 3.0 percent the first year, 2 percent the second year, 2.0 percent the third year, 2 percent the fourth year and 2.5 percent the fifth year for a total of 11.5 percent over the contract term. The first year raise is retroactive to May 13, 2009.

Wage adjustments were done for classifications at each mill and increased the base wage. The percentage wage increase for each year is then added on top of that. For example, at the Clinton converting facility workers received a 43-cent per hour wage adjustment equivalent to 3 percent; the first-year 3 percent wage increase was added on to that so that workers there ended up receiving a 6 percent wage increase the first year.

Under the agreement, Evergreen will deposit $200 into a flexible spending account (FSA) for each employee that can be used for health care expenses like copays for doctor visits and prescription drugs. If workers get preventive screenings like mammograms and cholesterol checks, an additional $120 will be deposited.

Workers who retire and turn age 65 during this contract term will have health care reimbursement accounts. Each January 1 Evergreen will give the retirees $2,000 to be used for the retiree and his/her spouse to purchase a Medicare wraparound plan. A company called Extend Health will help the retirees choose the best plan for their needs.

Employees who reach age 62, achieve 10 years of service and retire during the life of the agreement will stay in the company health care plans at an 80/20 premium split until they reach age 65.

Workers who retire pre-age 62 during the life of the agreement will stay in the company health plans at a 50/50 premium split.

Evergreen will provide for future retiree medical care by creating a retiree medical subset in existing 401k accounts for the purpose of depositing lump sum contributions. A 401k account will be created for this purpose only for employees who do not have an account.

The amount of money the company contributes depends on one’s age as of Jan. 1, 2010. Workers who turn age 45 during the contract term will receive a $750 contribution on their 45th birthday and each January thereafter. Those ages 45-49 will receive $1,000 each Jan. 1; ages 50-53 receive $2,000 each Jan. 1; and ages 54-56 will receive $3,500 each Jan. 1.

A joint insurance committee composed of four union and four company representatives will be formed to run the Canton location’s health clinic and see how the health care plans are being administered, monitor costs and develop recommendations to maintain costs and improve the quality of care. An advisory board, consisting of one USW-appointed representative from each location, will meet quarterly to review costs, utilize biometric screenings at each location and recommend ways for improved health care at a reasonable cost.

An important successorship clause was obtained that will ensure Evergreen workers’ jobs and union contract are preserved in case the company is sold. Both parties also agreed to principles for conduct in union organizing campaigns that enable workers to freely choose representation without a negative campaign being waged.

Evergreen Packaging workers produce milk and juice cartons.

The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers employed in paper, metals, rubber, chemicals, oil refining, atomic energy and the service sector. www.usw.org

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