The leaders and members of striking International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Locals 388 and 1191 met Monday at Elks Lodge No. 298 to prepare for Tuesday’s much-anticipated return to the bargaining table with Eaton-Cobham Mission Systems.
John Herrig, directing business representative for District 6 of the IAMAW, confirmed contract talks with Eaton are expected to resume as scheduled. It will mark the first time the two sides have officially met since the union voted down a March 4 offer.
Not long after the union’s rejection of the contract, Herrig noted Eaton agreed to re-start talks on March 15 but postponed a return to the table until Tuesday.
While the parking lot of the Elks Lodge at 4400 West Central Ave. was packed Monday morning, the picket lines in front of the nearby Eaton facility on Hickory Grove Road were not abandoned.
A vocal contingent of former Local 388 members and a handful of current non-union Eaton workers took up strike signs and waved at passing motorists.
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“Solidarity,” one non-union Eaton worker said when asked why some employees joined the picket lines. “We are out here in support of our fellow workers who deserve what they’re asking for.
“All of our workers need support. Solidarity is our strength.”
A woman who said she retired from Eaton after 15 years said she had a “responsibility” to support the union members on strike.
“I was represented by the union,” she said. “Of course I want to support the union that supported me.”
Tensions between the machinists and Eaton have increased during the past 10 days of the now-32-day strike. The company is advertising for replacement workers in the local press and in a sign on the building. And Kevin McKeown, senior vice president and general manager of the Eaton-Cobham site in Davenport, sent a two-page letter to union members outlining how workers would get their jobs back after a strike and how they could cross the picket lines.
Katie Kennedy, Eaton Aerospace senior manager of global communications and marketing, then claimed a total of 50 union members crossed the picket line since the start of the strike. She raised that number to 55 last Friday.
McKeown’s letter was sent March 4, the same day 97% of union members voted down Eaton’s second contract offer. Leadership of Locals 388 and 1191 denied members were crossing over in large numbers.
Strikers on the line backed up their representatives, detailing 11 line crossings over the course of the strike.
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More than 400 Eaton-Cobham union employees represented by IAMAW Local 388 and Machinist Union Local 1191 hit the picket line just after midnight on Friday, Feb. 18, after more than 98% of the membership voted down a proposed three-year contract from the company.
Eaton, a multinational power management company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, announced June 1 it had completed its purchase of Cobham Mission Systems, described as a leading manufacturer of air-to-air refueling, life-support, fuel inerting, space propulsion and missile actuation systems, primarily for defense markets. Cobham has a workforce of approximately 2,000 people and manufacturing facilities in the United States and United Kingdom.