I will be the first to admit I don’t know much about the inner workings of unions. I was born and bred in North Carolina which is both a right-to-work state and the least unionized state in the nation. While I have and have had relatives who were union members in the North, I’ve never worked in a job that lent itself to unionization.
Yesterday I received a very perceptive and enlightening email regarding Remington, jobs, and unions. The person who sent it to me is very well versed in the inner workings of unions but prefers no attribution and to remain anonymous.
The first point he made is that Remington Outdoor Company will say nothing about moving jobs from Ilion to Huntsville for a couple of reasons. First, anything that Remington says that could be interpreted as coercion or related to bargaining would likely lead to serious charges brought by the National Labor Relations Board. The second reason is that Remington’s contract with UMW Local 717 could very well contain language or clauses that would lead to automatic unionization of the Huntsville facility. This is referred to as successor language.
The second point he made is that without successor language, it doesn’t look good for union representation in the South especially given the loss at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. Interestingly enough, Alabama has the highest unionization rate of any Southern state.
Remington has a large operation in Ilion and it won’t be easy to move. But given time, you will start to see operations begin to move South. It is my understanding that R&D is already slated to move to Huntsville. The city, by the way, is also home to the Redstone Arsenal which has as one of its component organizations that Army Material Command as well as a number of Ordnance Corps units. If the Republicans take control of the US Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the 3rd ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and could easily get the ear of the DoD for Remington.
I was able to look at an earlier collective bargaining agreement between Local 717 and Remington. While I did not find successor language in it, I did see language that mandated certain models produced by Remington must be made in Ilion. Article II- Scope and Coverage, Section g – Job Security says that products such as the Remington Model 7, 700, 7400, and 7600 rifles and the Remington Model 870, 1100, and 1187 shotguns “will continued to be produced only at the Ilion plant”. It did allow for Remington to procure component parts elsewhere. This contract expired in 2007 and I can’t imagine succeeding contracts not containing similar language.
The current contract was ratified in December 2012. The highlights of the contract as publicized by the United Mine Workers of America HQ include:
The new pact includes a provision extending Local 717 jurisdiction to any new plant that Remington builds, as the company is presently considering, within a 100-mile radius of the main plant in Ilion, N.Y. In addition to a $500 signing bonus, the contract features 3 percent wage increases in each of the first four years, and 3.5 percent in the final year. It also maintains the current level of medical benefits, improves the language governing overtime and creates a new position, Utility Specialist, aimed at reducing the reassignment of regular workers.
This contract was ratified two days before the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. They could not have imagined the NY SAFE Act when the collective bargaining agreement was ratified. If this contract contained the same earlier language as to what models would be produced at the Ilion plant, you have to wonder if it extended to the Bushmaster AR-15s whose production had been shifted from Windham, Maine to Ilion. It is hard to conceive that a company would want to take the chance of producing a firearm in a state where it couldn’t be sold.
To sum it all up, while Remington’s current contract with Local 717 may preclude the rapid transfer of existing production lines from Ilion to Huntsville, production will start shifting South over time.