The Electrical Worker online
July 2013

IBEW Negotiators Score Win for
Iowa Rockwell Collins Workers
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More than six weeks of negotiations between the IBEW and avionics manufacturer Rockwell Collins yielded victory for the nearly 2,000-strong Iowa work force May 4, when members overwhelmingly ratified a new five-year contract.

The agreement covers members at Coralville Local 1634 and Cedar Rapids Local 1362 who build, test and maintain high-tech products for national defense systems and commercial industries.

Gains include 2.5-percent wage increases for the life of the contract, which is above average for the industry. The company will continue to match contributions on 401(k)s. New hires will continue to be eligible to participate in the 401(k) plan on day one, and will also be included in the company's hourly pension benefit plan, which was stripped more than a decade ago from the company's thousands of nonunion employees.

"These gains came as a result of having an engaged and informed negotiating committee that stood strong together and knew that by raising our collective voices, these jobs will remain solid, middle-class careers," said lead negotiator Randy Middleton, who is the director of manufacturing at the IBEW.

Management also agreed to implement the IBEW's Family Medical Care Plan on Jan. 1, 2014. This plan provides top-shelf health, prescription, dental, vision, disability, accident and life insurance coverage for members, their beneficiaries and covered dependents. "It's a significant improvement over what the company was offering, which was a high-deductible health plan that would have kicked up costs for the work force," Middleton said.

Negotiators also secured better, more comprehensive health care coverage for retirees aged 55-65, while beefing up the company-wide wellness program to ensure greater benefits for members while keeping costs low. Other gains include a longevity bonus, improved shift differentials and vacation rollover for the membership.

Negotiators got an added push from a company-wide newsletter — crafted by the IBEW Membership Development Department and the negotiating committee — mailed to Rockwell Collins employees in Iowa, Texas and Florida. The newsletter included bargaining updates, reports on possible company plans to reduce health care benefits and more, while highlighting the IBEW members' vital contributions to volunteerism in the community.

The committee also launched a Web site called to keep employees updated on negotiations. "Working at Rockwell Collins and being a member of the IBEW gives me a better life for my family," said Local 1634 member Freedom Sims in a video on the site.

The contract also covers nearly 150 members of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers / Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) in Richardson, Texas.

Negotiators said that the new agreement proved mutually beneficial, especially in a time of increasing outsourcing in the manufacturing sector.

"Rockwell was fair at the table," Middleton said. "We had our differences, but now our job is to keep doing what we do to help the company be successful while continuing to build our labor/management relationship.

"At the end of the day, it's a good contract — and it shows that Rockwell Collins cares strongly for their work force and for keeping well-paying, middle class jobs in Iowa," Middleton said.

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Iowa IBEW members working for avionics manufacturer Rockwell Collins recently ratified a new five-year contract covering nearly 2,000 employees.

Photo credit: Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user cclark395