This is not a huge story but it is significant in that it's a microcosm for what's happening in the manufacturing areas all across the country.
Routh Packing Co is a small family owned packing plant located in Sandusky Ohio. They kill and process approximately 7000 hogs per day and are but 1 of 2 such family owned operations yet in existence. They pay the highest wages and benefits of any packer in the US.
There contract had expired and the management having great difficulty competing with the low wages of behemouths like Smithfield and Tyson sought to freeze wages for a time and also ask for a small($7 to $17/wk) co-payment for health insurance. The employees repeatedly voted it down and were prepared for a strike to commence today. Fortunately for all involved some 11th hour negotiating by management led to a final acceptance of a new contract yesterday. Had the employees gone on strike Routh, who having been unprofitable for the last 3 of 4 years, would have very likely shut the doors for good.
Sandusky is located halfway between Toledo and Cleveland in one of the most densely concentrated manufacturing belts in the country. Heavily unionized this area has been extremely hard hit by plant closures over the last decade. Athol International, Scott Paper, American Crayon, Chrysler, Lyman Boats, Rubbermaid and several automtive suppliers have all closed recently.
One wonders what could possibly be going through the minds of the employees and their union representatives. Are they so self involved and insulated from economic reality that they don't realize how rare and valuable a job paying higher than predominate wages and benefits has become? Do they have the faintest clue how difficult it would be to find a comparable situation should they lose their job? They came within an eyelash of throwing it all away because they were asked to contribute a meager $17/wk for the health insurance policy that I'm paying $798/mon to maintain.
It's all about profitability. A company that loses money because they are forced to pay inflated wages due to union extortion cannot compete and will fail. Either unions begin paying attention to the overall financial viability of the companies they are negotiating with and mediate their demands based on that criteria or most definately they will take the companies down and the employees they represent right along with them.