Kathy Smith is preparing for an anniversary she never hoped to celebrate.
Monday marks one year since United Auto Workers Local 2049 went on strike against Coupled Products LLC in Columbia City, charging unfair labor practices.
The 29 strikers – who have been picketing the plant seven days a week – might wave signs saying: One year and were still here, said Smith, the locals president.
As far as a big old whoop-de-do, I dont think so, she said.
But Smith said she has absolutely not thought of giving up a fight that members consider a matter of fairness.
They would probably like us just to walk away from it, but its not going to happen, she said Friday.
The strikers object to a 33 percent pay cut imposed by Coupled Products last year.
At this point, only the lawyers are communicating through court filings. Company officials decline to accept the unions phones calls or return to the bargaining table, Smith said.
Coupled Products Columbia City plant makes metal fittings that connect hose and tube assemblies for the automotive, construction, agricultural and appliance industries. The company acquired the factory from a bankrupt Dana Corp. in 2007.
Tina Johnson, the companys director of U.S. operations, said full-time replacement workers are on the job.
Were continuing to do business as usual, she said.
Coupled Products honored its 2009 two-year contract with the union despite a poor economy, Johnson said previously.
That deal gave workers a $40 weekly raise plus a cost-of-living increase the second year, but workers were also asked to pay $100 more a week for family health insurance. Top pay was more than $21.50 an hour for skilled workers such as machine operators and computer programmers.
The company couldnt keep paying almost $15 an hour for top-scale unskilled workers and compete with foreign firms, Johnson said.
The strikers believe the company unfairly singled out unskilled union members for a pay cut while leaving skilled wages untouched.
Johnson said the company provided its last, best and final offer before the strike but never heard from the union in response. Smith said the union wants to return to the bargaining table but the company wont budge.
Smith is determined to see the strike through to the end, even if it means picketing for another 365 days.
We feel, she said, that we have a good chance of winning.