USW Charges Unlawful Lockout at Milbank Manufacturing Co.

Kansas City electrical parts maker puts 194 workers on street for health care

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The 194 employees of Milbank Manufacturing Co., have been unlawfully locked out since Sunday, despite an offer by the United Steelworkers (USW) to continue bargaining past the midnight contract expiration.

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Janet Kirk, USW Local 13 President said: "We wanted to negotiate, not be locked out.  The proposal by our employer has us all united in rejecting a monthly premium contribution of $620 to maintain our current health insurance family plan. It's unjust and unreal for this profitable company. The cost to Milbank workers would be equal to nearly 25 percent of our gross earnings."

Union members are carrying signs saying "Unlawful Lockout" at Milbank Manufacturing's front gates: 4801 Deramus St., Kansas City. Kirk said the USW stands ready to negotiate and has agreed to join a federal mediator in talks on Monday afternoon and Tuesday.

The USW has taken action by filing an 'unfair labor practice charge' with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last week for refusal to bargain over a mandatory subject of attendance policy. A second labor charge was filed Monday for the unlawful lockout, plus a separate charge for surface bargaining.

"We have a strong case for recovery of lost wages and benefits for each day our employer keeps us locked out on the street," Kirk said.

The USW chief negotiator, John Wiseman, issued a statement saying: "Milbank Manufacturing needs to obey the law by negotiating a labor agreement in good faith and not stick a number on a take-it-or-leave it proposal that would be 25 percent of a production workers gross earnings. The lockout is an insult and our charges filed with the NLRB are serious violations of law."

According to the USW negotiating committee, the order books are full at the Kansas City maker of electrical meters and circuit-breaker boxes with a demand for rebuilding the northeast coast damaged properties following Hurricane Sandy. "Milbank Manufacturing is putting our future and this company at risk during a time of high demand for the electrical products we make," said Bob Hill, a union negotiating committee member.

He adds that in addition to the company's 'take-it-or-leave-it' monthly healthcare premium payments, the company proposal includes an increase in deductibles for the health benefit plan of $1,000/$2,000. "We should be working on this issue at the negotiating table, not in a lockout on the street," Hill declared.

Until recent management changes at Milbank Manufacturing, the USW has had good relations with management going back to the 1940's.  "We accepted significant employee increases in health care payments three-years-ago in the last labor agreement," Wiseman said.

"This company has been very successful with its product line and demand is up, but for some reason the current management wants to illegally throw loyal employees on the street instead of working thru the problem under the contract extension we had offered."

The Kansas City plant is the original and largest manufacturing facility of Milbank Manufacturing's well-known electrical breaker boxes found in residential and commercial properties all across the nation. The company owns smaller production facilities in El Dorado, AR., and Concordia, MO., with labor agreements expiring early next year.

For a copy of the federal charges filed by the USW against Milbank Manufacturing at the NLRB, go to:

Contact: John Wiseman, 816-836-1400; 816-804-4045; jwiseman@usw.org

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)



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