Iowa Whirlpool Workers Can't Muster Vote For Strike

Members of the union for 2,400 workers approve four-year contract despite failing to give it a majority vote.

MIDDLE AMANA, Iowa (AP) — Members of the union for 2,400 workers at a Whirlpool Corp. refrigerator plant in eastern Iowa have given de facto approval to a new four-year contract despite failing to give it a majority vote.
Machinists union Local 1526 officials say the contract at the Middle Amana plant was approved ''through the back door'' — which occurs when union members reject a contract but then fail to pass a separate vote to go on strike by the necessary two-thirds majority.
The four-year contract takes effect Monday and is the first between Machinists Local 1526 and Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool, which acquired Maytag Corp. last year.
''I'm just disappointed,'' said Local 1526 President Jerry Wedel.
Wedel said he would have preferred the union strike until a better contract could be reached.
Wedel said the new contract freezes the union's defined benefit pension plan, which is the primary retirement vehicle for many members.
Union members who were already vested in the defined-benefit pension are expected to receive the benefits for which they are eligible, but Whirlpool will not put any more into the plan.
Wedel said he thinks some union members didn't vote to strike because a large number of them are already vested and close to retirement. Union members will continue to have a 401(k) defined contribution retirement plan with a company match.
Whirlpool spokeswoman Jill Saletta on Monday confirmed that a contract was in place, but said the company had no additional comment.
The contract provides for a first-year wage increase of 45 cents per hour, Wedel said.
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