10/23/07

UNITE rejects contract, pickets against Sealy

Work starts at 5 a.m. for most at the Sealy Mattress Company in Green Island, NY. But on Monday, its 350 employees weren't working inside. They were working the picket line outside.

Last Thursday, Sealy offered members of U.N.I.T.E. HERE Union Local 1714T an extension of their former contract. Union members said no and when they went to work Monday, the doors were locked.

Hundreds of Sealy Mattress Company employees were out of work Monday. The company locked its doors after union members turned down Sealy's contract proposal. Erin Billups has more from workers walking the picket line who are demanding a better contract.

Sealy Employee Contract Committee Member Denise Roe said, "When we informed the management about the no vote, they made an agreement with us that we would work on a day by day basis until we make an agreement. And all of a sudden we come to work today and we're locked out."

Sealy management would not talk on camera, but North Region Vice President of Operations Dan Hige said they notified workers of the lockout Friday. He said if they had allowed their employees to work without a contract, it could have put the company's largest plant in jeopardy. With the planned lockout, Sealy is able to delegate the work to its other facilities, which the company says won't have a huge impact right now.

Union members say that's interesting.

U.N.I.T.E. HERE Union District Manager Bob Bruse said, "I'm glad to hear that they have such deep pockets, because we want to get into them."

Workers want more money and more affordable health insurance -- something they no longer have access to. When Sealy decided to lock its doors, it also locked employees' health benefits. Workers say it's a low blow.

Roe said, "They're very shocked because they didn't know we don't have health insurance right now. A lot of us have family. Myself, I have three kids, and if one of my kids gets sick today, what am I gonna do?"

Sealy has placed "no trespassing" signs around the property. They've even hired a security company to guard the building. Workers we spoke with said all of that is not necessary...they simply want to get back to work.

Sealy employee Frank Moler said, "We came ready to work today."

Sealy employee John Dumary said, "They've got all the doors blocked off, put trailers all around. All we want to do is go to work."

Hige said they're looking over the contract and are cautiously optimistic they can reach an agreement. Contract negotiations continue Wednesday.

(capitalnews9.com)

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