Employees back to work after 5 months

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clifford jacobs

Latest: 10:01 pm, 2/29/16, Monday 

CHAMPAIGN — Locked out employees thought they were going back to work, but not everyone did. Monday was the first day back for most workers at Clifford-Jacobs, but several others were laid off.

Dozens of employees at the steel forging plant were locked out for five months. That’s how long it took the company and labor unions to come to terms, but even though they agreed on a contract, not everyone is back in.

Workers say this isn’t a happy ending. Since the lockout began, they’e been camping outside the plant in shifts; many struggling to get by on unemployment checks and without insurance. That’s all over now, except for a few whose problems are about to get worse.

“I’m thinking about putting my house up for sale and moving out of the state.”

Bruce Williams worked in the hammer shop at Clifford-Jacobs. He thought he was going back to work on Monday.

“I went out and bought clothes and everything to go back to work, for my job, then they tell us that we don’t have, we’re laid off.”

As many as 13 others could be joining him, but even the workers who did get to clock in again say the scars won’t heal for awhile.

“Five months. Five very long months. I feel that there’s still a lot of things to work out after this.”

After Tim Wells became one of the many locked out workers, he and his wife, Samantha, had no way to pay for their diabetic son’s medical bills. Now that the lockout is over, we caught up with them to see how they fared.

Wells says to get by, she got a second job and state-supported insurance.

“Had it not been for that, we probably wouldn’t have survived this.”

“I’m glad that I have a job, that I’m there, don’t get me wrong, but after going through that, it’s a lot to take in.”

Tim says the first day back was awkward. The union may have an agreement with the company, but Wells says there’s still tension.

“They just showed a different side; the hardball side.”

The hard times that side brought about were on display right at the foot of the company. A supply of signs and solidarity aimed at making sure no one forgot what was happening.

But, if you dropped by Monday, you’d never know that. Camp Clifford-Jacobs is closed for good. At least that’s what workers hope.

“I am absolutely afraid this could happen again.”

“You never know what’s going to happen in the next contract in four years. We could be in the same boat.”

“Neither of us got everything that we wanted. We got enough from both the company’s perspective as well as the union’s to reach a new agreement and that’s part of what the process is all about.”

“It was really a slap in our face. I mean, we agreed on the contract and we thought everybody was going to go back to work, but it never happened.”

“I Hope that everybody can get back to where we was.”

“We survived it once. I’m sure we could do it again.”

The union mediator wants to thank the community for supporting the workers and their families the past few months of negotiations. 

Update: 5:01 pjm, 2/29/16, Monday

CHAMPAIGN — It was the first day back to work for dozens of employees after they worked locked out of their jobs last fall. Workers at Clifford-Jacobs Forging are back on the job Monday.

Union mediators and the company announced reaching an agreement on a new contract last week. Workers didn’t come in with a case of the “Mondays.”

“They seemed, for the most part, to be upbeat.”

For a group of 70 employees, coming to work has meant standing outside locked gates for the past five months. At the end of September, the unions and company couldn’t iron out a contract. But last week, that changed.

“We did reach a new contract agreement that started this morning. Neither of us got everything that we wanted. We got enough from both the company’s perspective as well as the union’s to reach a new agreement and that’s part of what the process is all about.”

Both sides agreed to not publicly disclose terms of the contract which lasts four years.

“That’s a four-year contract. It will go until the year 2020.”

“What kind of lessons have been learned from this, the past five months?”

“Well, that’s a great question. I think the important thing, from our perspective, is to stay objective and always be willing to listen and always be willing to talk.”

The employees came back Monday at staggered times because they have to go through safety training and re-orientation before getting back on the factory floor, but company reps say they’re ready for things to get back to normal.

“From our standpoint, we’ve got a bright future. We’re excited to have our employees back and look forward to another 90 years.”

The union mediator wants to thank the community for supporting the workers and their families the past few months.

But, it’s not all good news from Clifford-Jacobs. Up to 14 people could still lose their jobs in the coming weeks because the company is continuing layoffs throughout its departments, which can now include manufacturing.

If some of the formerly locked-out workers choose not to come back, that number could go down. The company cut six office position in November. 

Original: 10:30 am, 2/29/16, Monday

CHAMPAIGN — Locked out workers at Clifford-Jacobs Forging are finally back to work.

For five months, nearly 70 workers picketed outside the plant seeking a new contract. Now they have one.

Both sides agreed to a four-year deal, but they’re not discussing terms of that agreement.

14 employees will lose their jobs, but it has nothing to do with the new contract. The company says business is slow right now.

Employees will spend much of Monday getting a refresher.

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