It’s starting to feel like the last few years could be called ‘The Years of the Strikes’ – and now Mack Truck is involved

October 9 – So many workers in so many businesses this year and last have been striking or threatening to strike – from railroad workers to UPS workers. 

The United Auto Workers have been on strike for three weeks, demanding a 46 percent pay raise, 40-hour pay for a 32-hour work week and a return to traditional pensions. 

The back-and-forth between management and the union has been ongoing. 

Now that strike has expanded to Mack Truck – and could have serious local impacts. 

Mack Truck is owned by Volvo and 73 percent of the rank and file workers have said no to the contract.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “The contract that management offered to the union featured about a 19 percent pay raise. There was a $3,500, signing bonus or retention bonus they all would get and some other enhancements to healthcare and other benefits. But the union overwhelmingly voted to reject it. They’re citing, among other things, what’s happening with the auto workers out in Michigan, and the Mack Truck workers are saying this is not enough. This is not far enough to get them to sign a contract. But again, we should emphasize that this is Mack Truck UAW only. So for example, Volvo has a plant in Shippensburg that’s road equipment. That’s not Mack Truck, they are not unionized. So the Mack workers, and there are thousands of them, including a big contingent at the Hagerstown plant. There’s a big plant in Allentown. They have started to strike. So the Mack Trucks only under that Volvo umbrella would be the ones affected by this and presumably will stay shut down until this labor issue is resolved.”

Paul Frey, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said, “This is impacting the consumer, whether you’re for management or for labor. All this disgruntlement around the country, again, is just chaos and it’s affecting the consumer. It’s affecting our economy. I’m not sure who’s right or who’s wrong, but I had a former boss who said if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of you. So it’s never 100/0. It’s never 50/50. So I’m hoping these sides can come together and work out their disagreements and move forward because it’s impacting our community.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “There was a tentative agreement reached but I remember reading it and thinking this is actually pretty reasonable from the union. So I should have known that was a chance that was going to be struck down and it was, unfortunately. When you see a precedent of something much higher, already done, you want to get that, too. I wish these workers would realize though, we’re not in a good position economically. There’s this glut of money, leftover from the COVID time that they want to say, we want our sheriff. Well, that’s gone now. It’s not going to be there in the future. So they really ought to think of how badly this is going to affect themselves and their families down the road when our economy just cannot handle this.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “You’ve got businesses that are now going to be affected. This is the trickle down. You were offered a 19 percent raise and apparently that’s not enough. So walk you go and what happens to the small business, a Mom and Pop here that is counting on these guys?

Frey said, “The suppliers, the restaurants, the retailer’s. It impacts a lot of people.”

Jim Kercheval, executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee, said, “You always take notice when you have a major employer that’s running into some labor challenges. So we’ll keep following that and hope they can get things worked out. I know it’s in the best interest of both parties to get something worked out. I don’t know the details of the strike negotiations. You hear some of the things that are of interest to the workers. Mack Truck is a global entity, and they represent a lot of different areas and when they’re trying to expand and grow, we’re trying to keep those jobs here and get them to grow up here. All the things as far as labor agreements have an impact on that. So we want to see Mack Truck and Volvo stay here for a long time. I hope they can get things worked out here in the near future. But that seems to be the nature of the beast here lately, looking around the country at some of these negotiations.”

Jansen noted, “I think there’s an unrealistic look at profits that have come in over the years of COVID. I think it’s a mistake for these workers of the union to say we want our share. That was a very odd circumstance and we know the economy over the world, especially with all the conflicts arising, we’re looking at not that kind of economy in the future, so it may be a little short sighted to hurt themselves, even down the road by demanding too much based on that kind of influx of money, based on a very odd circumstance.”

Kercheval said, “You do have to be careful and understand what’s the long game. Back in my day as commissioner, we had the tannery at Williamsport going through some labor issues. The company had just moved a whole big department out to Mexico. Shortly thereafter, some of the workers and the tannery got into some negotiations and were talking about going on strike and the company just decided, well, we’ll just move the entire operation out and leave the country. So you’ve got to find the right balance, trying to make sure the workers are protected and getting their labor, but at the same time, companies are going to look long term. That’s the thing with Mack Truck. They’re a global operation. They have units in different parts of America as well as overseas. They could ship different lines and different things, move around. So we hope they can work that out quickly.”

Ryan asked, “I don’t know how many people that affects here in Hagerstown. Are we talking hundreds or are we talking thousands?”

Kercheval said, “You have a couple thousand that work over at Mack Truck. It fluctuates depending on the economy and the market over there. So quite a bit of people. I’m not sure exactly how many of those fall under that negotiation versus management, what’s the break down there off the top of my head, but it’s certainly a big impact. They also have an impact on the economy with what they spend with the supply chain throughout the market, just restaurants and all that economic impact any big organization has. I hope both sides can kind of work through this issue and get it done.”

Ryan said, “You’ve got to wonder how long the benefits that they’re taking care of the people that are walking the picket line, at what point do those run out? And you’re getting into the fourth quarter, you’re getting into colder temperatures. You’ve got a lot on the table here. It’s a wonder who’s going to blink on this one at this point?”

Kercheval said, “I couldn’t tell you. I just hope both sides kind of think of the long term game and understand there’s options. I think you want to make sure you have longevity more than anything and can keep these jobs here for a long time. Mack Truck has had a history of good relationships with their employees. They’ve been able to negotiate contracts really well over time. I’ve worked with some senior leadership in different things. I know it’s a company that’s made investments not only for the quality of the workspace, I mean go there today versus back in the 60s, 70s and, and look at the difference they’ve invested there. They also do a lot of investments in green energy and environmentally safe ways of painting and doing work like that. So the company isn’t like a company that’s known for bad investment in its workforce, but I don’t know all the details on either side. We’re always here to help anybody in the community that wants to protect our companies and really, whether big or small, it doesn’t matter. I think we try to build an environment here that we value anybody that starts a business. I know

Firsthand the challenges that go into trying to create your own business. So whether you’re big or small, I think there’s resources here to help work through things and if there’s something we could do, we would certainly be happy to help.”

Additionally, it looks like Walgreens employees may also walk out in protest over working conditions. 

Barkdoll said, “That may be happening today. Hundreds, if not thousands of Walgreen workers walking off. Some of the people that work there, in the pharmacy operations in particular, are citing their work conditions. Now these are not unionized employees, but they’re citing staffing shortages, unhealthy or unsafe conditions meaning that they need to work too many shifts, too many hours and that management is not doing anything about it. Again, it just seems like every week we’re hearing about these labor stories, it’s really causing problems around the US and no end in sight. I mean, I think you’re going to see these kinds of things continue to happen.”