Retired UAW members fear pension cuts in Honeywell talks

Retired UAW Local #9 members gather at the South Bend hall to raise concerns over the current Honeywell negotiations.
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Honeywell workers in South Bend have gone almost a month without a paycheck.

The company and UAW Local #9 members are trying to work out a new contract.

Both sides continue to sit down with a mediator, but Honeywell representatives say their last, best and final offer remains on the table.
Local #9 workers say that deal is a slap in the face and falls short of what they're looking for.

Meanwhile, retired union workers, who aren't allowed to vote on a new contract, say they're worried some of the changes will affect their pensions.

Nearly a month after they were escorted out, union members continue to maintain a daily presence outside the Honeywell plant in South Bend.

“We were willing to work. Apparently, that wasn't good enough for the company so they decided to replace us with temporary workers. And they've been the ones dragging their feet through this whole process,” UAW Local #9 treasurer Rob Williams said.

With printed signs and some wood for a fire, more than 300 workers are digging in for what could be several months' worth of contract talks between union leaders and Honeywell reps.

“Keep the faith, stand strong, we're not the ones who started this, but we're the ones who are going to finish it. And until Honeywell gives us something that's fair and equitable that we can agree upon, we're going to stand the line,” Williams said.

But it's not just the current Local #9 members who are concerned about their livelihoods.

“A lot of people who retired years ago only made $500 or $600 a month. Now if you take $200 or $300 dollars a month out of the pension for insurance costs, it makes it almost impossible to live,” UAW Local #9 retirees chair Thomas Zmyslo said.

UAW members rejected the proposed contract by Honeywell, partly for what they say is a dramatic increase to their insurance premiums. Retired union members can't vote on a new contract, but they're urging younger members not to allow any big cuts to the company pension fund.

“All of the gains that our forefathers have gained over the last 80 years are being lost by the negotiations going on today,” Zmyslo said.

In a statement, Honeywell representatives say they're committed to bargaining in good faith and open to considering union counter-proposals. Employees can return once an agreement is reached. Meanwhile, our salaried employees and trained, temporary workers continue to operate the site as normal and our customers' needs are being met.

“I have the absolute confidence in our committee,” Williams said.

Zmyslo says November will mark 80 years since the sit down strike happened at the Bendix plant.

That strike won union members the right to negotiate for better pay and working conditions.

Union members say Honeywell has hired Strom Engineering, a Minnesota firm that specializes in providing labor during strikes. Honeywell reps have not confirmed that.