Union, Mueller enter new five-year contract

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Unionized employees of Mueller Copper Tube in Fulton have entered into a new five-year contract with their employer, officially ending a three-month standoff of sorts.

Since August, the 260 members of United Steelworkers Local 8420 have been batting Mueller’s proposed collective bargaining agreement — essentially the contract between employees and employer that dictates things like wage scales, working hours, health insurance and employee safety — back and forth. The union initially rejected the company’s new five-year agreement, officially kicking off a 90-day negotiation period.

During those three months, union members voted on the proposed contract a total of three times, rejecting it twice. The third vote passed and the new five-year agreement, which was signed around two weeks ago, took effect Nov. 1.

According to one union member — who asked to remain unidentified, but said he’s worked for the company for more than two decades — negotiations between the union and Mueller were tense. If an agreement hadn’t been reached, there was a very real chance of strike.

“The threat [of strike] was there,” he said. “I think both sides were prepared for that.”

While he declined to elaborate on the specifics of the contract or say why union members voted down the first two proposed contracts, he did say members took issues with “payroll” and “insurance.”

“People are going to dislike anything that takes money out of their pockets instead of putting money in,” he said.

In the end, both sides made some concessions before reaching an agreement, he said.

“Both sides gave up something,” he said. “Obviously, we feel like we gave up a little bit more … But people need their jobs.

“With something like this, everyone’s going to come out somewhat dissatisfied,” he added.

adam.armour@journalinc.com