Striking L-599 members ratify contract 3-1

Members or Local 599 (Billings, Mont.) walk the picket line during the lodge’s 11-day strike against Beall Trailers of Montana.

Union workers at Beall Trailers opt for better health care coverage

LOCAL 599 (BILLINGS, MONT.) members voted by a 3 to 1 margin Oct. 26 to end their 11-day strike against Beall Trailers of Montana and accept a new three-year agreement. The contract allows the 114 members employed by Beall to switch from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to the Boilermakers National Health & Welfare Trust “Plan M.”

“A lot of the issues we had were with the quality of the health care plan we have,” said L-599 President David Bye. During negotiations, Beall proposed keeping the existing plan and allocating some of the cost to the employees. “Many of our members said they wouldn’t mind paying part of the premiums if they could get better coverage,” Bye said. Plan M offers lower deductibles and better long-term disability coverage than what is available under the members’ current plan.

A commissioner from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) helped broker the new agreement. L-599 members will pay the difference in the premium cost of their current plan and Plan M – about $24 per week for family coverage.

The agreement also provides for an FMCS commissioner to train the labor-management committee on communications and other topics. “Members felt they were being disrespected,” said IR Amanda Stinger. She said they are hopeful that the training will help address that problem.

The three-year pact also provides wage increases of 4.3 percent in the first year and 3.3 percent in each subsequent year.

Stinger said she was impressed by the solidarity shown by the membership. “No one crossed the picket line. They were solid. These guys manned the line in 12-hour shifts. I think it really brought the members together in a way they hadn’t been before.”

George Ulrickson, L-599 secretary-treasurer, said this is the first time workers at Beall’s Montana plant have gone on strike in the 61 years they have been organized. “The company opened the Billings plant in 1946, and the Boilermakers organized us that same year. Going on strike was all new to us. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we got most of it.”

L-599 members build fuel tankers, belly dumpers, and dry bulk trailers for Beall, which has been in business for more than 100 years and has 17 locations in the western United States. L-599 is a shop lodge chartered in 1935.