More than 500 employees at the General Electric aviation plant in Lynn will get an immediate bump in pay if union members approve a tentative agreement that will decrease the time it takes workers to hit the top pay rate. The agreement reduces the years required to hit that rate from seven to six and also gives workers a say in negotiating the overall wage cap.
For most IUE-CWA Local 201 employees in Lynn, top pay ranges from $33.59 to $42.75 an hour. Workers who qualify for raises that would put them above the current cap of $34-$46.50 get a lump sum payment equal to what their hourly increase would have been. Previously, the cap was determined every year by an outside consultant based on the local labor market without union input.
Of the 1,179 Local 201 members at the plant, who build jet and helicopter engines for the US military, 527 will benefit right away from the faster wage progression, with raises of up to roughly $2 an hour.
Regular pay raises are negotiated as part of the four-year national GE contract, which expires in June, but Local 201 can bargain for additional measures every two years.
The union said its organizing efforts also paid off for other GE employees in New Hampshire and Vermont, where about 2,000 non-union workers became eligible for the top pay rate in six years the same week Local 201 started negotiating for the change in Lynn. The union said its advocacy has pushed GE to improve conditions for non-union workers, similar to union campaigns at Starbucks and Apple increasing pay at non-union locations, but GE disputed this assertion.
“GE pays its employees competitive wages in every community in which we operate,” a spokesman said in statement. “Earlier this year, we reduced the number of years required for employees to reach top wages at several facilities, including in New Hampshire and Vermont, to boost recruitment as we hire additional employees there. We anticipated this being an item of bargaining in Lynn, as well, subject to company and union agreement.”
The increases are noteworthy at a time when the cost of living is soaring and uncertainty about the company’s future is high, said Adam Kaszynski, president of IUE-CWA Local 201. GE is splitting into three separate companies starting next year focused on health care, energy, and aviation.
“The agreement’s significant because we’re able to get money in people’s pockets right now after being crushed by inflation and stagnating wages,” Kaszynski said. “When we approach the company about wage increases, they tell us, ‘Well, that’s subject to national negotiations.’ "
A vote to ratify the local agreement will be held Sept. 21.
Chris Moody, 29, is among those in Lynn who would see his pay jump immediately. Moody, a health and safety representative and spot welder, as well as a union shop steward, has been with GE for three years and will get an 80-cent hourly raise, he said, followed by larger increases than expected over the next several years.
The extra money will be a big help, namely with the $2,000 a month he pays in rent, said Moody, who lives with his mother and brother in Amesbury.
“My budget is extremely tight, and this will loosen it up,” he said. “I don’t think my story is specific to me. I think it’s felt all around.”
Moody also worries about what will happen to GE workers across the country as the company is divided.
“Corporate America doesn’t have a very good track record,” he said. “Big decisions like this usually don’t benefit the worker. It’s usually more to pump the stock up or for executives’ own personal gain.”