Unlocking the Power of Industry Standards: Kentucky Workers Win Landmark Contract

Winter 2023-2024 IAM Journal

An exciting moment in history occurred in July 2023 in Lexington, Ky., where the approximately 150 hardworking members of IAM Local 219 (District 1888) achieved a remarkable feat by ratifying a brand new contract with Tunista Logistics Solutions, LLC.

It’s worth noting that Kentucky is a “right-to-work” state, which makes this triumph by the IAM even more significant. The negotiations for the contract were concluded in under three days, and it not only included all of the workers’ demands, but also exceeded their expectations.

In late 2022, Tunista Logistics Solutions, an Alaska Native Corporation, took over as the Blue Grass contractor, replacing Solution One Industries (SOI). The collaborative and promising nature of the negotiations with the company was highly commendable.

The members of Local 219 stationed at Bluegrass Station are an integral part of ensuring the seamless functioning of base operations, with a focus on providing essential supplies for U.S. Army Special Forces units.

Their diverse array of occupations, ranging from adept supply technicians to agile warehouse specialists, skilled carpenters to seasoned medium truck drivers, plays a
vital role in shaping the overall outcome of the company’s operations. Their unwavering dedication and expertise are a testament to their invaluable contributions.

Fast and Furious: Setting Industry Standards

The Service Contract Act members negotiated a three-year agreement that included improved benefits:

• 15% pay increase
• Increased company pension contributions
• Better health and welfare plans
• Removal of a two-tier pay structure
• Improved vacation accrual
• Addition of Juneteenth as a holiday.

When the negotiations began, Local 219 members were optimistic about the potential outcomes. However, they proceeded with a sense of caution to ensure that their interests were properly protected throughout the process.

“We had a very turbulent relationship with our previous company before Tunista came in. At times, it was almost downright antagonistic, they were always fighting us,
and we had a lot of issues and grievances,” said IAM Local 219 President Nathan Svec. “When we came to negotiate the new contract, it was clear that we were dealing with a company that was far more professional and a company that was very intentionally trying to put its best feet forward and make a good impression.”

“We have had a rough time with our previous company, SOI, but we can confidently say that Tunista did not have any negative feedback,” said IAM Local 219 member Bobby Goodpaster.

The meticulous negotiations were conducted with exceptional care and precision, culminating in a groundbreaking deal that was successfully reached in mere two-and-a-half days.

“We came out with probably the best contract we have had since we have been in the union,” said IAM Local 219 member Bryan Martin. “I would’ve never dreamed that you could negotiate a full contract in two and a half days. I wouldn’t have never thought we would be able to be in that spot to do that.”

Local 219 members faced a number of challenges with their former subcontractor that repeatedly violated the terms of their contract. As a result, legal proceedings were initiated with the labor board to ensure that the workers received fair and respectful treatment. However, the situation changed significantly with the arrival of Tunista Logistics Solutions, which adopted a completely different approach that proved to be effective for all parties involved.

“You can really tell the difference of who we’re working with now compared to before,” said Martin. “Their expectations are our expectations. We were all there to get the job done, perform the job, and negotiate.”

The entire process was executed with the utmost professionalism and seamless coordination, surpassing any prior negotiation experiences and setting a new standard for future negotiations.

“The negotiation was a pleasant and mutually respectful experience for both parties, which was a welcoming sight for me,” said Goodpaster.

The workers at Tulista believe that their employer places great emphasis on the well-being of their workforce and that it respects its employees’ decision to collectively bargain as it’s vital for the long-term viability of the company.

“They have shareholders, responsibilities and commitments, and things of that nature,” said IAM Local 219 member Julie Christopher. “I believe they have a strong understanding of the idea that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of you. I think that philosophy is pretty prevalent within their company.”

The company approached negotiations with a positive attitude, seeking to create a win-win outcome that would benefit everyone involved, not only to prevent a potential strike but to secure their own success.

“This is how the system should work,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Rickey Wallace.

The negotiating team from the company came into the discussions with a constructive and optimistic mindset. Their primary objective was to achieve a win-win outcome. They understood the importance of avoiding a potential strike, but their ultimate goal was to ensure the long-term success of the company.

“Anytime that workers can get a raise, that’s not just a good thing for themselves and their loved ones, but also a good thing for the local economy,” said Svec. “People having a little bit more allows them to make different financial choices about their future that they couldn’t do otherwise. Maybe this raise will enable them to purchase a house they could not have afforded previously.”

“If we’re successful, then they’re successful, and if they’re successful, we’re successful,” said Christopher.

“Our strong agreements in the service contract sector speak for themselves,” said Wallace. “The negotiating committee was able to secure an outstanding contract that sets the bar for other bargaining units across the country.”

Reflecting on the Past: Workers Coming Together

IAM Local 219 members showed incredible perseverance during their second contract negotiations with the previous defense contractor, Allsource Global Management (AGM).

In October 2014, negotiations between the parties failed to reach a compromise, leading to a prolonged strike that lasted for five months. Despite the unforgiving weather conditions, Local 219 members stood their ground in an effort to uphold their current contractual agreement. Their commitment and dedication to their cause were evident throughout the duration of the strike.

Members rejected proposed pay cuts of over 30%, changes to grievance and arbitration, elimination of seniority protections, and due process provisions, as well as attempts to silence their voice in the workplace.

“These members were on strike before and they barely won their organizing back in the 2000s by one vote,” said IAM District 1888 Business Representative and Organizer Ryan McCarthy. “That shows that if you continue to fight, you’re going to get the contract you deserve.”

The support of the IAM was crucial in achieving success in the local labor board’s filing of charges against AGM, culminating in a strong outcome despite the challenges. The tireless efforts of our diligent members culminated in the ratification of a fresh agreement that successfully reinstated nearly all of the proposed cutbacks.

“We were able to keep our numbers together, and we were able to fight and come back,” said IAM Local 219 member Bryan Martin. “We were able to maintain our pay and improve our contract thanks to the union.”

The previous three rounds of contract negotiations have proven that the members of Local 219 possess significant bargaining power and are willing to stand in solidarity to protect their jobs and futures, even if it requires taking strike action.

The strong track record of Local 219’s collective efforts towards achieving shared objectives and a fair contract sends a clear message to any company that enters negotiations: the goal is to work collaboratively towards a mutually beneficial agreement, rather than engaging in tactics of coercion or capitulation.

“We would definitely stand our ground, although we were not necessarily anticipating this outcome,” said Goodpaster. “I think that the last strike we had is now paying the dividends as far as paving the road ahead for future negotiations.”

Bargaining + Organizing = ‘Bargainizing’ for a Better Future

“We still work in a right-to-work state and are continuously looking to expand our membership. We are actively seeking a younger crew to join our team and fill open positions,” said Goodpaster. “The new contract is a great way to promote our union and the ways in which it can benefit you.”

Local 219 is in the middle of organizing another Lockheed Martin’s subcontractor at Kentucky’s Blue Grass Station. Workers were getting pumped up when hearing about the outcome of the new contract.

Employees at Lockheed Martin who are employed under a service contract have come to recognize the positive impact of unionizing and establishing a robust membership. They have taken a proactive approach to getting involved and participating, having witnessed firsthand the substantial benefits that can be achieved through collective bargaining.

“People are actually wanting to educate themselves a little bit more,” said Goodpaster.

IAM Local 219 members are forward-thinking and eager to start planning for their next contract. They understand that building stronger contracts takes time and effort, and they are committed to the process of negotiation. They know that each contract builds upon the last, and they are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcomes for themselves and their community.

“We can now focus on revitalizing our local, stepping up membership involvement, which that’s always my goal,” said Svec. “Our strength as a local comes from our membership being active and participating. One of our goals is to ensure individuals have a positive outlook on the union.”

“That contract didn’t happen overnight. We fight for a little bit more each time,” said Cristopher. “That’s the goal that each time it just gets a little bit better until your contract is a contract that people look at and go like, ‘Oh my gosh, look at that contract – That’s an amazing contract!’”

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