After their original job action in 1937 to gain union recognition, Eureka-Williams workers enjoyed relatively smooth labor relationships with their employer through the 1940s and 1950s. Workers did strike for 28 days in 1968, but otherwise maintained regular cost-of-living and other benefit increases from the company over the years, despite the company's sale to different employers.
Larry Yeast, business agent for Lodge 1000 during this period, reflected on a style difference between himself and his successor, Bernard Grosso, in dealing with management and bringing a company's final offer to workers:
Barney had a strike at almost every place we had -- he was pugnacious and a fighter. ...In the 37 years that I was active, I never had a strike in which I was in charge of negotiations. He told me, he says, Red, I found it that it is easier to get them out than it is to get them back in.'
I always had the policy that I wanted to know what the last offer was and what the prognosis would be if we went out on the street. How much you would have to win. At that time it was nothing to have 6-10 week strikes and if you were fighting over 2 cents, if you lose ten weeks pay, it will take an awful lot of pennies to pick that up. I was criticized for that to some extent, but I told them (the members), look, I am elected, I'm a fact-finder, ...I know things, I learn things. ...They deserve all of the advantages of what the situation is. But the people get restless too and the last contract I settled with Williams, it was almost a lost deal (1968). And I firmly believe, and I think everybody does, that they lost money at that strike (Yeast).
Yeast noted that pay increases were one thing, but also important was contract language that established grievance and arbitration systems to settle disputes in the workplace. He found out at GE in an injury case how important an arbitration system is:
We had a deal out there (at Williams), a mutual agreement, and you could almost get everything settled without a bother. You didn't have any provision that you could go to arbitration. I found ...out at GE they didn't have a provision for arbitration. There was a girl out there whose hand went into the press and lost some of her fingers and they fired her. ....So I was telling the Grand Lodge office in Chicago about it, and he says, Oh, you won't have any trouble with that, we'll arbitrate.' And I said, We don't have arbitration (Yeast).'Previous Table of Contents Next