LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The roughly 4,300 hourly manufacturing workers at Louisville’s Appliance Park resoundingly rejected a proposed four-year labor contract with GE Appliances on Wednesday.
Despite the 87% "no" vote on the deal, a strike is not imminent.
Work continues as normal while the union negotiating committee looks to “resume bargaining,” said Dino Driskell, president of IUE-CWA Local 83-761, in a text message Wednesday evening.
GE Appliances, a unit China-based Haier, proposed keeping workers’ healthcare contributions flat and providing modest wage increases for the first two years of the contract, with premiums and payscales to be revisited in the second half of the four-year deal.
Workers at the sprawling southeast Louisville campus make dishwashers, washers and dryers, refrigerators and plastic components. They earn from $14 to $35 per hour depending on seniority. (The minimum is $15.50 per hour when temporary pandemic “appreciation pay” of $1.50 is included.)
Previous contracts grouped workers into three main tiers based on seniority, with newer hires getting less pay than more senior members.
The latest proposed deal would have delivered the biggest gains to the lowest-rung workers, who were hired in 2017 or later.
Those workers would have received a $1.50-per-hour raise in the first year of the deal, while the longer-tenured workers were offered hourly increases of $0.50 to $0.70, according to a union summary obtained by WDRB.
“We are disappointed that employees did not vote to accept the proposed contract that was unanimously endorsed by the IUE-CWA negotiating team,” GE Appliances spokeswoman Julie Wood said by email Wednesday. “After listening extensively to employee and Union feedback and bargaining in good faith, the proposal offered significant wage gains with no increases in payroll contributions for healthcare. (GE Appliances) remains committed to continuing to build and deliver the world’s best products for our customers.”
Aaron Little, a GE Appliances production worker hired in 2012, said he was glad to see lower-paid workers get the biggest slice of the contract, but he voted ‘no’ because he thinks all workers deserve more.
Little, 30, said he joined the company at age 22 on the assumption it would turn into a comfortable, middle class career. But after eight years, his hourly wage remains just shy of $17, he said.
“When I look at this contract, I am thinking, I’m not in the job I thought I was,” he said.