Workers at Huttig are united in demanding the company preserve good healthcare for families and retirees.
Teamsters at Huttig are taking action to thwart the company's aggressive, concessionary approach in bargaining.
On Saturday, the group of 36 workers at the building materials distributor voted unanimously to authorize a strike. Then, after the votes were tallied, workers and retirees leafleted shoppers at four retail locations, targeting some of the company's largest national customers.
At stake are the preservation of good, family healthcare coverage and the medical benefits of Huttig retirees, many of whom have dedicated decades of their lives to the company.
In negotiations, Huttig is stuck on proposals that would radically increase out-of-pocket medical costs for Union families. The company also wants to eliminate healthcare coverage for retirees, leaving former Huttig employees on a fixed income high and dry.
“Their proposals would double my medical costs," said John Ward, a retired Teamster who dedicated 27 years to the company. "I’d have to choose between buying my wife’s diabetes medicine and making sure my grandkids have what they need.”
For workers and retirees, the company's ruthless approach in negotiations is a recent development. Huttig used to be a local, family-owned business that looked after its employees. But ever since Woodgrain, an out-of-state behemoth, acquired Huttig in an all-cash purchase for $350 million in 2022, it's been a different story.
On Saturday, March 4, Teamsters at Huttig vote unanimously to authorize a strike.
"This new company is trying to take away our medical and retirees' benefits at a tremendous cost to us," said Alan Bender, a long-time Huttig employee. "I've worked there 28 years. Now, right when I'm retiring, they want to yank the carpet out."
But Bender, Ward, and their fellow Teamsters are refusing to have potentially devastating concessions rammed down their throats. After the strike authorization vote, workers deployed to two Lowe's and two Home Depot locations to spread the word about how Huttig's proposals would harm workers and their families.
Teamsters are taking their fight for good, family healthcare to Huttig customers and the public.
Larry Brown, councilmember at the City of Auburn and former president of the Washington State Labor Council, is standing in solidarity with the workers. Brown recently toured Huttig's Auburn warehouse, and he attended the workers' meeting at the Union hall on Saturday.
While Brown and Union Reps walked the warehouse floor, encouraging workers to attend the meeting, a Huttig manager trailed behind them tracking their every move. In response, the Union's legal team filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the company unlawfully surveilled and attempted to intimidate workers.
"There's a lot at stake here," Councilmember Brown said. "We want businesses in the City of Auburn to do well, but in order to have a successful business you have to have workers who are successful as well. Cutting worker benefits is short-term thinking. It's critical that members of Teamsters 117 don't go backwards, and we don't want Huttig to turn their backs on the American dream."
With the Union negotiations team and the Company back at the bargaining table this week, John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117, praised the workers' unwavering resolve.
"Workers at Huttig are united in their demand to preserve essential healthcare and retirement benefits for themselves and their families," he said. "They've shown they're not only ready to strike, they'll take additional steps to bring their fight to the public. This company needs to stop trying to intimidate workers and come into negotiations prepared to bargain a fair contract that respects workers, retirees, and their families."
Auburn City Councilmember Larry Brown (l) joins Union Rep Matt Komperda (c) and retiree John Ward (r) in a solidarity visit with Union members at Huttig.
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