rally at Berkeley, Aug 17
solidarity IBEW Boston
Contract Action Team and Negotiating Committee

October 1, 2011, International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Workers at Bayer pharmaceutical plant in Berkeley, CA win new pact to increase job security, control health costs & raise pay

A new agreement covering 420 pharmaceutical workers at the Bayer HealthCare plant in Berkeley, California has been reached following two months of difficult negotiations. The proposal includes better job security measures, controls on health care insurance costs, and annual raises of more than 3% during four-year contract. The proposed agreement is subject to a membership ratification vote that is scheduled for October 12.
“Better job security was a key concern for both workers and the community – and this agreement meets that goal,” said Fred Pecker, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 6.
Concerns about job security increased earlier this year when Bayer announced plans to close their nearby facility in Emeryville, CA – a move that will destroy hundreds of good jobs. And two years ago, Bayer threatened to move jobs from the Berkeley plant, but reversed course after politicians secured tax breaks worth millions of dollars for the German-based pharmaceutical giant. Pecker said local elected officials supported the push for better job security in the new agreement, including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, California State Senator Lonnie Hancock, Assembly member Nancy Skinner, Assembly member Sandre Swanson, and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee.
Rising health care insurance rates were a key concern raised by Bayer workers when negotiations started on July 25. The new agreement will freeze the employees’ share of premiums at 18%, but Pecker said the government must do more to protect working families with a “Medicare for all” plan that covers everyone.
Wages for workers in Berkeley will increase 3.1% during each of the first three years and 3.2% in the 4th year.
Bayer workers won real improvements despite the recession because they organized and were willing to take action. “Like so many companies today, Bayer is making billions of dollars – but getting them to share some of it with workers just doesn’t happen without organizing, action and pressure from the inside and outside, ” said Local 6 Business Agent Donal Mahon. The union’s elected negotiating committee was credited by Mahon and Pecker for their hard work during the past two months of difficult negotiations. They also thanked the Council of Bayer Workers – a network of unions from other Bayer facilities in the U.S. that included the International Association of Machinists (IAM), International Chemical Workers Union (ICWU/UFCW), United Steelworkers, plus the AFL-CIO. Critical international help was provided by the Bayer workers’ union in Germany (IG BCE), and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions.

AFL CIO NewsBlog, Sep 27, 2011

Bayer Workers Fight to Keep Promised Jobs

Two years after being granted tax subsidies in exchange for creating family-supporting jobs, management at Bayer Pharmaceuticals in Berkeley, Calif., steadfastly refuses to keep its commitment. Instead, it wants to outsource work done by members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 6.
On Aug. 24, the day the contract expired, employees at Bayer plants across the country wore stickers and carried signs demanding a “fair contract for Berkeley workers on Aug. 24…or as long as it takes!”

In more than two months of contract talks, Bayer is still demanding to outsource jobs to subcontractors that pay lower wages and fewer benefits. Other major issues include the need for safer staffing levels needed to ensure quality and safety. The company is also pushing to make health insurance less affordable for workers and their families.
Workers at other unions have joined with the ILWU to sponsor solidarity actions. In New York City recently, members of the local central labor council recently leafleted outside of the Millennium Broadway Hotel where a Bayer representative was giving a presentation at the Pharmaceutical Strategic Alliances conference.
In Massachusetts, Jobs with Justice brought union supporters and students together together last month to remind scientists and researchers participating in a “Bioprocessing Summit” meeting—including Bayer representatives—that production and maintenance workers are critical to the industry’s success.
Bayer has already reneged on its promise to create good jobs in the Bay Area by closing its Emeryville plant and the 420 employees in Berkeley—where the successful hemophilia drug Kogenate is produced—want to ensure they would not face a similar fate.
To help make Bayer a better place to work and an even more successful company, the unions that represent workers at other Bayer plants have joined with the ILWU to form a new “Bayer Workers Council” that includes United Steelworkers (USW), Machinists (IAM) and the International Chemical Workers Union/UFCW. The AFL-CIO Organizing Department is assisting the newly formed council.
Despite the company’s demands, the employees are committed to negotiating and reaching a fair settlement, ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees told
Negotiations will only fail if the company is unwilling to address the reasonable concerns of job security, safe staffing, and affordable health care.
He added that Bayer, which made $2 billion in profits last year, respects its workers in other countries like Germany, “but in America, Bayer’s behavior is different. Workers in Berkeley want a positive relationship with Bayer, based on mutual respect and a willingness to work together to solve problems.” by James Parks

Press Release, September 22, 2011, International Longshore and Warehouse Union

Bayer Biotech Workers in Berkeley Send Company a Stinging Rebuke

Workers at Bayer’s pharmaceutical plant in Berkeley cast ballots yesterday in an election that sent the company a stinging rebuke for refusing to provide employees with job security after company officials took millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that were supposed to protect well-paying jobs. By a margin of almost 4-1, workers authorized their elected negotiating committee to cancel an agreement reached three years ago with Bayer – if the company refuses to protect jobs from being outsourced.

“Workers are standing up for the community because Bayer took millions in taxpayer subsidies to protect good jobs, and now they won’t provide any assurance that those jobs won’t be sent away,” said Fred Pecker, the elected union leader from ILWU Local 6 who is helping 400 workers negotiate a new contract with Bayer.

Bayer’s plant in Berkeley produces the highly profitable prescription drug Kogenate, which is used by hemophiliacs to improve blood clotting. Record sales of the drug totaled $1.35 billion in 2010, adding to Bayer’s total profits last year of $2.5 billion.
Negotiations for a new contract began on July 25, 2011. Key concerns include the need for safer staffing to protect employees and ensure quality standards won’t be compromised in the plant. Also important is the need for affordable health care benefits, which have been taking a greater share of worker’s paychecks each month.

Concerns over job security erupted in 2009 when Bayer threatened to outsource some of the Kogenate production to another state. Local and state officials agreed to provide Bayer with generous tax subsidies if the company would keep jobs in the community. Concern exploded again this spring when Bayer decided to close a nearby plant in Emeryville, outsourcing the 400 jobs to a foreign facility.

“Too many companies are trying to take advantage of workers and communities during the recession,” said Pecker. “We’re asking Bayer to be more accountable to our community and taxpayers.”

If Bayer refuses to address the community concerns about good jobs and taxpayer subsidies, workers may notify Bayer that the current agreement will be cancelled within 48 hours – opening the door for further action. From Craig Merrilees, ILWU

September 1, 2011; Berkeleyside

Bayer Healthcare employees reject contract

The 414 union workers at Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals in Berkeley overwhelmingly turned down a proposed new contract on Wednesday.
The vote against the new contract was 264 to 90, according to Donal Mahon, an organizer for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6. The two sides will return to the bargaining table next week, he said.
“We are very disappointed by the vote,” said Sreejit Mohan, Bayer’s director of public policy and communications. “We feel (the proposed contract) was fair. We feel it was competitive. In fact, it was generous.”
The contract included wage increases of 3% to 3.3% a year over four years, plus a signing bonus, according to documents provided by Mohan. (Berkeleyside reported yesterday that the increases went up to 3.4%) An employee now earning $59,904 would earn $67,750 at the end of the contract, according to the documents.
But union officials recommended a no vote because of concern about a provision that would increase health care costs. Bayer wanted employees’ contribution to go from 18% to 20% over the four-year contract. The union contended that increased health care costs would eat away most of the salary increases.
But Bayer disagrees. In a memo sent to employees, it said that increased health care costs would only cost $1,000 over the life of the contract – far less than the salary increases.
The ILWU’s Mahon said that is not exactly accurate. Bayer is asking its union members to pay a certain percentage of the costs, but the company has no control over those costs. The health insurance company determines the price, so there is no way for Bayer to say the total cost will be only $1,000.
“That’s a lot of gall for an industry that went to Congress and lobbied against the health care plan to turn around and ask us to bear those increased costs,” said Mahon.
Bayer spokesman Mohan said the company thinks the union is not looking out for the best interests of its workers.
“What we believe is the ILWU International’s agenda is preventing our employees from getting the best deal,” said Mohan.
He also said that Bayer offered to extend the “recall rights” to the eight employees who were laid off in August 2010 to August 31, 2011, but the union did not agree.
Mahon said that offer was predicated in accepting the terms of the new contract, which he and other union officials knew was probably not going to happen. by Frances Dinkelspiel

August 31, 2011; Berkeleyside

Laid-off Bayer workers still fighting for their jobs

When 414 workers at Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals vote on a new contract on today, Anita Holloway won’t be among them.
Holloway worked in janitorial services at Bayer Healthcare on Dwight Way for three years, earning $22.65 an hour. Then in August 2010, she and 28 other union members were laid off, with the faint promise of being rehired when times got better.
Many of those workers decided to take severance and separate themselves from the company. But Holloway didn’t and has been hoping that she might get “recalled,” a technical term used in the contract between Bayer and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents the employees.
The phone call that Holloway had been waiting for came in May. Bayer contacted the union and said it had numerous jobs opening up, according to Donal Mahon, an ILWU organizer. He called the 10 people who were still hoping for reemployment by Bayer, and all of them indicated their eagerness to return. The recall came at the right time, said Mahon, because the employees could only hold onto their seniority and recall rights until Aug. 22, 2011.
But then something went wrong, said Mahon. Bayer backed away from its offer to bring back the ten employees and said it could actually only reemploy two people. Holloway was not one of them.
When it became clear to the union that its workers would soon lose their seniority, organizers asked Bayer to extend the “recall rights” for 90 days. Bayer didn’t respond to the offer, said Mahon, Two weeks later, new contract negotiations began, and Bayer said it would extend the recall rights only if the union approved a new contract by Aug. 24th, said Mahon. Part of the terms of the proposed contract would give Bayer the right to contract out janitorial work, effectively eliminating the job Holloway hoped to reclaim, said Mahon.
“They led the union and all the people on the recall list to believe they would call us back,” said Holloway, who lives in Richmond. “They blindsided us, and started using us as a bargaining chip in the contract negotiations.”
Sreejit Mohan, Bayer’s director of public policy and communications, said the situation is much more nuanced than the way the union has portrayed. However, since workers are voting on a proposed contract today, it would not be appropriate to discuss any employment issues, he said.
“We just want to be seen as fair to our employees,” he said.
Union officials have staged protests and collected signatures to petition Bayer to rehire its workers. They are particularly aggrieved because of Bayer’s special relationship with Berkeley and the huge profits made on the medicine manufactured at the Berkeley plant.
Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceutical, with 1,500 employees, is the second-largest employer in Berkeley after the University of California. (Although just a small percentage of workers live in Berkeley). In 2009, when Bayer’s corporate parent Bayer AG of Germany was trying to decide whether to outsource some of the medicine made on site, East Bay cities made a push to retain the company. Berkeley worked with Oakland to extend that city’s enterprise zone northward to include the 43-acre Bayer facility.
Including Bayer in the zone made the company eligible for $10 million in state tax breaks for investments in equipment and in energy cost savings, according to Dave Fogarty, Berkeley’s economic development project coordinator. Bayer is now investing $100 million to upgrade its manufacturing equipment, said Mohan. The construction should be completed by the end of 2012, and Bayer hopes to start manufacturing on the new equipment in 2013, he said.
Bayer and Berkeley also signed a 30-year development agreement in 1992. The city guaranteed zoning changes would not affect the company and streamlined site development. In exchange, Bayer agreed to make a number of investments, including the creation of the Berkeley BioTech Academy, which has introduced 1,000 high schools students to the biotech field. Bayer has also invested in job training, transportation, housing and environmental protection. Bayer estimates it has paid Berkeley $455,000 through the development agreement, according to a 2010 report prepared by the company. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to about $20 million, according to the report.
Bayer Healthcare has had a banner year, according to Mahon, the union rep. It makes Kogenate, a drug used to treat hemophilia. The drug brought in $1.45 billion in 2010, and sales have already increased by 14% this year, said Mahon. Bayer stands to benefit even more when new provisions of the health care reform law go into effect in 2012, according to a study prepared in May by students at UC Berkeley.
That’s why union officials can’t understand why Bayer is trying to cut janitorial jobs. And while the proposed contract has raises of 3.1% to 3.4% each year for the next four years, it also is calling on workers to pay a larger share of their health care costs. ILWU members currently pay $217 a month; that would go up to $354 a month by the end of the contract, said Mahon.
For that reason, the union negotiating committee is recommended that workers vote against the proposed contract on Wednesday.
“If we are going to make this much money for them we ought to get part of the reward,” said Mahon.
Even when Bayer workers agree to a new contract, it doesn’t look good for Holloway and the other workers who were hoping for a recall, he said. As of now, they are not reemployed and have lost their seniority. (The union has proposed a two-tier system for janitors in the contract. New hires would start at $15 an hour instead of $21 an hour.)
“It’s upsetting,” said Holloway. “For them to dangle a carrot like that, to imply they are going to bring us back, to me, that’s a breach (of contract). “ Frances Dinkelspiel