One hundred and five sheet metal workers at Trachte Building systems have had enough of management’s efforts to undermine their union. Members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers or SMART Local 565 plan to walk off the job. Labor Radio producer Ellen La Luzerne spoke to Jesse Buell, Business Manager for SMART Local 565, about worker organizing at Trachte Building Systems. Below is their interview.
Labor Radio: The workers at Trachte building systems are set to go on strike at midnight tonight [Friday, May 6th]. What are the main reasons these workers decided to say yes to a strike vote?
Jesse Buell: I think it’s really about flexibility to the members. There’s been lots of a mandatory overtime put on the workers through the pandemic. The company is looking for additional mandatory overtime language. The people just want more family time. There was a moment where Trachte worked these guys for seven days a week for about nine weeks in a row very strategically where they didn’t mandate the same person for the 15 days, but they would go back and forth from machine.
LR: Management sent the workers a letter telling them that they should resign from the union so they don’t get fined if they show up for work once the strike starts. And they also outlined what workers would lose if they are on strike such as unemployment and health insurance. What’s been the reaction of your membership to that letter?
JB: The reaction to that really has probably gassed the fire more. As it is I’m sure to be a scare tactic and a union-busting tactics to get people back into the shop without a contract. It’s actually motivated the members to stick together and it’s really gained solidarity over there.
LR: They’re claiming that they’re going to continue operations once the strike starts. And with all the excessive overtime and in light of the tight labor market how do you think the companies actually going to be able to keep the place running if they don’t have any workers?
JB: There was probably a plan for this. I do think that there was a strategic plan to try to bust up the union. I don’t know the facts on if they have things stored but as I stated earlier there was extensive overtime all last year and I just don’t know if this is something that they planned and built up for just for that reason.
LR: What did the strike vote look like?
JB: It was a very strong strike vote. With that being said we’re hearing rumors of offers to cross the line, excessive bonuses to come back into the shop. I’m just hoping that we could stand strong on the line.
LR: What have you heard from management about why they’re taking this stance?
JB: Management has never really given us any business reasons. I sat across the table from Jeff Burbach CEO-President of Trachte building supplies and he was very blank and basically said that they have zero interest to sit down and negotiate anything. I requested that we sit down, extend, let the workers keep working so that there was no monetary damage to either parties and they told us to go to the street.
LR: What kind of community support is the union looking for?
JB: We’ve been working with the South Central Federation of Labor, [President] Kevin Gundlach has been helping us with resources and Anne McNeary [from the] United Way, has been in contact with us. We will be looking for help or donations from people if it may be cases of water or maybe gas cards. We’re looking for support on the line from our community. These are good union jobs and union wages go towards the community.
Reporting Courtesy of Ellen La Luzerne for Labor Radio
Image Courtesy of chrisimmler on Flickr