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Gunmaker Holding Gun to the Head of UAW Members in Connecticut

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Union workers at West Hartford’s Colt Firearms plant are scared for their jobs after the company announced they will open a new manufacturing plant in Central Florida. The move can’t help but remind one of this year’s NLRB complaint against Boeing for moving a plant of theirs to South Carolina from Washington as retaliation against their union workers.

After 175 years in Hartford, Colt’s move to Kissimmee, FL marks the first time that Colt has considered any U.S. operations outside of Connecticut. According to The Hartford Courant, United Auto Workers (UAW) members met on Sunday in Newington where they learned that part of the company’s plan is to freeze jobs at the West Hartford plant and begin cutting them in the New Year. The UAW represents 350 workers at the plant.

In June of 2010, 128 union workers were layed off. Since then, though, all but 26 have been hired back. But the news that the company will begin operations in “Right-to-Work” Florida has bleakened the outlook of the Local 350 members:

“They told us to expect more layoffs after the holidays,” said Mike Holmes, the shop chairman at Colt’s for UAW Local 376.

“The members are strongly opposed to this and we consider it a direct threat to jobs in Hartford, especially at a time when we’re losing jobs,” Holmes said Monday.

Let’s review the situation. Three months before their contract with union workers is set to expire, Colt Firearms and its sister company Colt Defense announce they will build a new manufacturing plant in “Right-to-Work” Florida and start ditching jobs in union-friendly Connecticut. It is now the job of UAW rep. Mike Holmes to convince the company that it is better for them to stay with union workers in Connecticut.

“We have had a strong contract and we’ve had a good working relationship here,” Holmes said. “And that’s why … we find it disturbing that jobs are being created elsewhere,” Holmes said.

The intentional and committed weakening of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by Tea Party-backed Republicans has left the agency on the brink of dissolution and emboldened companies like Colt’s zeal with respect to anti-union practices. The union feels the company is taking advantage of the situation by moving into a state where they can pay their workers less and sweep exploitative practices under the rug.

Colt Firearms has adopted the anti-worker strategy of hostage-based negotiation. They have a contract to renegotiate in March and they know that, even if they stay in Connecticut, they will get more concessions from workers if they begin making threats in advance.

“We were really caught off guard by this big unveiling of Colt down in Florida,” Holmes said. “We would like the opportunity to create the jobs here. … We believe in our workforce and the skills of our workforce and we pride ourselves that we make the best firearms in the world.”

NOTE: Florida Governor Rick Scott has committed $1.6 million to the new facility in order to lure it away from Connecticut.

This blog originally appeared in Union Review on December 13, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Steve Cooper is the editor of We Party Patriots. He educates union members on the benefits of social media, offering instruction on engaging on Facebook and Twitter. When not ruining his posture and finger muscles through endless computer use, Cooper is an avid chef and musician.


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