UAW Local 469 members will travel to Wheeling, Ill., today where Master Lock's parent company, Fortune Brands Home & Security Inc. (FBHS), will hold its annual shareholder meeting at 3:30 p.m. at the Westin Chicago North Shore, 601 N. Milwaukee Ave.
FBHS is a publicly traded company which sells a wide range of brand name home and security products.
From October 2011 to April 13, 2013, FBHS' stock tripled from below $12 to more than $36 a share. Both Wall Street and the company's own material indicate that FBHS, and in particular the Security and Storage business segment, are expected to continue doing well with increasing profit and free cash flow.
"We want to let shareholders know that we are proud to be part of a company that is profitable and has forecasts for more to come," said UAW Local 469 President Mike Bink. "Unfortunately, it has shaped up to be a lopsided equation for our members. We have continued to give to the company's success and are now facing drastic benefit cuts and the possibility of not being able to retire with dignity."
The UAW represents 350 workers at Master Lock. The union's recent contract with the company expired March 31 and was extended to April 3. The parties have yet to reach an agreement as the company has demanded the elimination of retirement benefits for active workers, and proposed to shift more health care costs to those workers.
In addition, the company's offer also continued an unfair two-tier benefits structure and failed to provide adequate wage increases. The two-tier system already denies some workers a pension. Workers overwhelmingly voted down those terms and have engaged in informational picketing at the Master Lock plant.
At the same time the company made these demands, it notified current retirees they were considering changing or terminating their health and life insurance benefits.
"This has been very confusing to workers because this is a moment when they should share in the success they have worked so hard for," said UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInroy. "Instead, our members are being asked to give even more back to a profitable company."
Last year, part of the Master Lock success brought President Barack Obama to the Milwaukee plant to congratulate the company and UAW members for bringing some jobs back from China.
Master Lock workers have helped create today's success with hard, diligent work, quality craftsmanship and, when needed, sacrifices including:
- In 1997, Local 469 members agreed to a $1 per hour wage cut.
- In the 2003 and 2008 contracts, Local 469 accepted two-tier wage and benefit structures.
- Production workers hired after 2003 make $3 per hour less. The entry-level wage is $11.49 per hour.
- Workers hired after 2003 pay 25 percent of their monthly health care premium, which amounts to $171 per week for a family plan.
- Workers hired after 2008 do not participate in the pension plan and are not eligible for retiree health and life benefits.