Madison, Wisconsin, Thursday, March 20, 2020–Members of Machinist Union (IAM) Local 1406 employed at GE Datex-Ohmeda in Madison, WI are in a race against the clock to produce ventilators needed in the worldwide fight against the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The more than 340 workers – who build anesthesia, respiratory and infant care machines – ratified a one-year emergency contract extension Thursday night in a lightning-fast attempt to meet the sudden increased demand for ventilators across the globe.
The goal is to produce as many ventilators as possible in the next 90 days.
The current contract wasn’t scheduled to expire until June 2020.
“The IAM and GE management were due to enter into regular negotiations next month, but the IAM decided the production of these vitally-important ventilators was too important to wait,” said IAM District 10 Directing Business Representative Alex Hoekstra. “On Monday, the union proposed a one-year agreement that protects its members and rewards them for the advanced and lifesaving work they do every day. Tonight, members of the IAM overwhelmingly voted to accept that contract.”
“This extension allows the company and union to work together to produce lifesaving ventilator equipment that will be used around the world to combat the virus,” said IAM District 10 Business Representative Joe Terlisner. “Both union members and salaried workers will be working on the shop floor side-by-side in order to meet the unprecedented demands of this ever-evolving crisis.”
“After struggling with the short notice of negotiating a contract extension, I am proud of our union body for gathering so quickly and agreeing on a contract with GE Healthcare,” said Local 1406 Shop Committee Chairperson Sheila Jourdan. “This contract extension shows we as union members can do our part in helping with this pandemic.”
“Our union couldn’t be more proud of the members of IAM Local 1406, who are on the frontlines as the world fights to contain the coronavirus pandemic,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “There are many people fighting for their lives right now. The ventilators our hard-working members produce could literally mean the difference between someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son coming out on the right side of this crisis. The members of IAM Local 1406 recognize that. As the proud union members they are, they will do whatever it takes to support their country and those in need around the world.”
“It is because of hard-working and dedicated men and women like the membership of Local 1406 that I know we will get through this crisis,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “They are an inspiration to all of us in a time when the whole world needs to be joining together in solidarity to tackle this pandemic. They are saving lives and our entire union is incredibly proud of them.”
About the IAMAW
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) is among the largest industrial trade unions in North America and represents nearly 600,000 active and retired members in manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare, transportation, shipbuilding, woodworking and other industries. For more information, visit www.GoIAM.org.