Despite trade publication reports earlier in the week that implied Malden Mills was on the verge of a crippling strike, Malden reached accord with Unite Here on Thursday, with an overwhelming vote by the 700-employee union members in favor of a new three-year contract. That vote averted the threat of a strike which could have seen nearly two-thirds of the company's Lawrence, Mass., factory workforce walking off the job and onto picket lines.
SNEWSÂ® learned from Malden CEO Michael Spillane that news reports which appeared in local papers, and were parroted by some trade media, were very premature.
According to Spillane, the Unite Here members had voted to authorize a strike, but there had been no vote to actually strike. Spillane and members of his executive team met with the employees on Tuesday, Dec. 7, to explain, in detail, all the points of the company's offer to them, which included pay raises, but also included an increase in health insurance premiums to help the company stabilize what it termed as "spiraling health care costs."
"The big reason for sitting down with the employees is we learned that many of them really did not understand what the contract proposal really meant," said Spillane. "We needed to take the time to answer all their questions in detail before they went to vote to accept or reject the contract that we had put before them."
The contract provides for a 7 percent raise in wages and employer paid dental and disability insurance over the next three years (increases will be 2 percent in year one, 2 percent in year two, and 3 percent in year three). The contract also increases the employee contribution to health care costs to a level that is consistent with that of Malden's non-union employees but remains significantly below the national average, according to the company.Â
"Ensuring the support of our valuable employees is one piece of what has to come together to make us a great, globally-competitive company," said Spillane. "This is not the only answer, just one piece. We have to learn to get products to market more quickly, be more customer-centric and responsive to our customers' needs, and we have to become truly more global in our reach."Â
SNEWSÂ® View: Yet proof of one more reason why SNEWSÂ® does not simply jump on news wire stories or reprint press releases -- there's always more to a story that is essential for accuracy and can only be learned by picking up the phone and reaching out for balanced commentary. There was even talk in some circles that perhaps Malden wanted to find a reason to shut down its Lawrence facility, the one Aaron Feurerstein so loyally fought to keep running. That talk is pure nonsense, especially since the U.S. military is currently Malden's largest single customer. While this was only one piece to the puzzle Spillane and team must continue assembling to ensure long-term success, it was a most critical piece and one that, if lost, would have really made assembling the rest of the corporate puzzle much more difficult. Spillane is correct that the company must tighten up the operations side of the biz to ensure product is dreamed up, manufactured and then delivered to customers not only on time, but in the quantity that was ordered. Some upcoming new hire announcements to the upper management will be a step in the right direction.