Union Members Talks About Contract Vote - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Union Members Talks About Contract Vote

For nearly four weeks, thousands men and women who build ships to defend our country fought their own battle for better wages and lower health care costs from Northrop Grumman. But now the fight is over. On Wednesday, a majority of the members voted "yes" to the company's three year deal.

"It was a 60 to 40 vote - 60 [percent of] people vote for, 40 against it," Metal Trades President Mike Crawley said.

Under this new contract, workers will receive a wage increase of $1.68/hour for the first year and $.55/hour more for each of the remaining two years.

Metal Trades Vice President Grady Bryant says the raise is impressive.

"It is the most money across the board that has ever been here. 15.3% raises are unheard of in shipbuilding," Bryant said.

That extra money is enough for striking worker Sam Cochran. He says this vote means he and other union members can get the two vital things they lost on the picket line: a pay check and insurance.

"I feel like at this stage, point and time and the changes we have been through this month, it is time to come to a close," Cochran said.

"Funds were getting low, insurance was canceled, and I have two children who both have asthma, and I need my insurance," Jennifer Kelly said.

But some of the "no" voters feel differently. Carl MacCaskill is among that group. He says in this new deal, health care premiums did not decrease, wages barley went up, and the incentives offered, like extra vacation time and attendance bonuses, have stipulations.

"What is incentive for me is what you give me on the hour," says union member Carl MacCaskill.

Johnny Barrentine agrees the company's offer could have been much better.

"There was more money out there to get, but honestly I do not think the union members were ready for the long fight."

Now the next step, returning to their craft of building ships.

The picket line was taken down Wednesday and workers have the option of returning to Northrop Grumman Thursday or Tuesday.

The company released a statement Wednesday night saying, "We are pleased that the contract was ratified, and we stand ready to get back to full production in Pascagoula.  The last few weeks have been difficult for our employees, our company and our communities. Now, we must join together to build on and improve our future."

By Patrice Clark

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