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Libbey workers to vote on 3-year contract offer

Approval by 2 unions this weekend would end strike

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    Members of the Glass Molders Plastics Local 59 and International Association of Machinists Lodge 105 picket on Ash Street as they continue their strike at Libbey’s Toledo glass factory.

    THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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    Union members picket on Ash Street in north Toledo. Votes today and Sunday by two unions could end the strike against Libbey.

    THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
    Buy This Image

Two hundred Libbey Inc. employees who have been on strike since Oct. 12 are expected to vote this weekend on a three-year contract that, if approved, would end the first work stoppage at the company’s North Toledo plant in nearly two decades.

A spokesman for the company said members of Glass Molders Plastics Local 59 will vote today. 

Members of International Association of Machinists Lodge 105 have a vote scheduled for Sunday. The two United Steelworker locals that represent mold makers, production, and maintenance workers at Libbey’s Toledo-area facilities ratified their contracts on Thursday.

“The proposals represent a middle ground between the expired contract and the tentative agreements reached earlier in October,” company spokesman Jane Devron told The Blade in an email. 

“Libbey and USW Locals 700T and 65T reached compromises around attendance and overtime policies that address the needs of both the company and employees.”

Libbey, which is headquartered in downtown Toledo, makes a variety of table glassware for restaurants and consumers. The company markets itself as the No. 1 glassware maker in the Americas, and says it’s one of the largest tableware suppliers in the world. Libbey’s sales were $822 million last year.

Ms. Devron said the deal with United Steelworkers calls for a 5 percent raise spread across the life of the three-year contract. Though the contract has been ratified, its implementation is contingent on employees returning to work at 7 a.m. Monday.

Whether that happens appears to hinge on whether Local 59 and Lodge 105 agree to their contract proposals.

“This is a bit of a divide and conquer strategy by the company. Coming to an agreement with the two unions will put a lot of pressure on the other two unions,” said Rick Bales, a professor who specializes in labor law at the Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law.

The United Steelworkers represent nearly three-quarters of Libbey’s unionized work force in Toledo, which is spread among the company’s Ash Street glass plant, a nearby distribution facility, and a separate distribution facility in Perrysburg.

The strike from Local 59 and Lodge 105 began in the early hours of Oct. 12 after members overwhelmingly rejected tentative agreements.

The two United Steelworkers locals did not join the strike, but those employees have honored the picket line and have not worked since the other two locals walked.

Those tentative agreements called for a 4.5 percent raise over the life of the contract. In addition to increasing the wage offer, officials from Libbey said other tweaks had been made since the original agreement was rejected.

The question now is whether it’s enough.

“A lot of people feel it’s not any different than what we were offered the first,” said one picketer who didn’t want his name used.

If either union rejects the offer, it could torpedo the deal with the Steelworkers. Picketers with Local 59 and Lodge 105 said Friday that though the four unions haven’t entirely been on the same page throughout the dispute, it’s unlikely many Steelworkers would cross an active picket.

Mr. Bales, at Ohio Northern, said the Steelworkers’ willingness to honor the strike even though they themselves never took a strike vote does send a strong message.

“The fact that they got three unions and four bargaining unions in solidarity against the employer, that’s actually pretty strong,” he said.

“Toledo’s a traditional labor town, so not entirely surprising, but nevertheless that’s an accomplishment for union leaders.”

Toledo is one of three manufacturing facilities Libbey operates in North America. The company also has plants in Shreveport, La., and Monterrey, Mexico. 

Mr. Bales said as long as the company and union do not take things too personally, getting back to work once the issue is resolved shouldn’t be too difficult.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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