Latest Solidarity Issue

UAW members win severance settlement at ZF Boge; lawsuit continues against illegal plant closing

05/11/09

PARIS, Ill. -- Members of UAW Local 2343 will finally get the vacation pay and retention bonuses they were promised as a result of a settlement agreement announced today between auto parts manufacturer ZF Boge and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB.)

The settlement is a result of three separate unfair labor practice charges filed by the UAW regarding unpaid severance. It will not affect the union's ongoing breach of contract lawsuit against ZF Boge in U.S. District Court.

The union's lawsuit, which remains pending in the U.S. District Court in Urbana, Ill., claims that the company's June 2008 decision to close its Paris manufacturing facility violates the terms of a May 2007 agreement between UAW members and ZF Boge. Union members had granted concessions in exchange for a specific promise from the company to keep the plant open.

Instead, the company reversed course after implementing the concessions agreed to by the members of Local 2343 and announced that the Paris plant would close, with work being moved to a non-union facility in Hebron, Ky.

"First they broke our contract by closing our plant," said Local 2343 President Willie Runyan. "Then they refused to pay anyone who would not sign a paper giving up any right to legal remedies."

"This is America," said Local 2343 member Jim Starr, a 20-year machine operator at ZF Boge. "You shouldn't have to give up your rights just to get what you were promised in the first place."

More than 50 members of UAW Local 2343 will now be eligible for unpaid vacation and retention bonus payments, which range from $200 to $350 per year of service. "In times like this, every dollar helps, but that doesn't mean you sign your rights away," said Robert Stewart, a member of Local 2343 and a five-year fork lift operator at ZF Boge. Stewart was laid off from the Paris plant, which makes rubber parts for automotive manufacturers, in September. "We did the right thing by sticking together. The company violated our contract, and we deserve our day in court."

"Settling these unfair labor practice charges was the right thing to do," said Dennis Williams, director of UAW Region 4, which includes Illinois. "Now, ZF Boge should take the next step and settle our lawsuit by honoring their contractual commitment to keep the Paris facility open."

The NLRB is requiring the company to post a notice explaining the settlement in the plant and to mail the same notice to all laid-off employees.