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Take and Give

Minnesota Public Radio posted a nice story on Minneapolis’ Smith Foundry this week. Because of the recession, the metalcasting facility’s owner Neil Ahlstrom asked its union for cuts in pay, healthcare, pension contributions and vacation last June. The union agreed to the one-year contract and then to a 6-month extension this summer. In return, Ahlstrom signed a 3-year contract starting January 1, 2011, that reinstates all the workers' benefits and adds pay raises of about 5% over three years.

Smith’s labor negotiations provide a warm example of how an employer and its union workforce can work together to ensure the company—and its jobs—remain in business. The key here is while the union made some concessions, Ahlstrom showed he was committed to returning the benefits and pay his workers were sacrificing.

Similar stories of unions working with metalcasters to stay in business have surfaced as companies fight to survive the recession, including the recent dramatic union change-of-heart that kept Navistar’s Indianapolis engine casting facility open this summer.

We hope and trust that as employees (union and non-union alike) make sacrifices to keep their companies going, their employers will make the appropriate adjustments to wages and benefits as business returns.