workers at their plant in Waterloo, Iowa, have approved a new three-year labour contract which includes a 55% per hour raise for each of the contract’s three years, with some out-of-pocket health insurance expenses.

Average pay is $14.92 per hour. It was the first time in nearly ten years that workers and the company reached agreement on time and without going on strike. Strikes of several weeks occurred in 1997 and 2003. A contract was struck in 2000 after a one-week extension.

‘It’s something we can live with’, Bruce Vaughn Sr, a tannery employee with 16.5 years. ‘It’s one of the best ones. We didn’t have to do the strike to get it.’ But Vaughn said workers had been preparing for a strike for five months, if necessary. ‘You have to give and take’, he said.

‘They say we’re getting the best leather from here. If you’re getting the best leather from Waterloo, you have to treat these employees right because they have to know what they’re doing to give you this product.’

Tannery general manager David Hunt said: ‘The three-year pact provides improvements in wages, retirement benefits, holiday and vacation time, short-term disability, off-shift bonuses and improvements in the contract language in general. This agreement is the result of hard work and compromise on both sides.’

‘For the company, they’ve secured this work force for another three years’, said Garth Bowen, international business representative with United Steelworkers Local 827, representing some 150 workers. ‘And the union wants to keep these jobs in Iowa and make a great product.’ Tannery workers hoped the new agreement would allow the company to recall some of the 20-25 workers now on layoff.