By DAVID A. COOK
A few weeks ago, I used this space to tell you about workers at McKesson Pharmaceutical and their newly established picket line. Today, I’m happy to report that after three weeks of striking, partners at McKesson are returning to work after approving a new offer with more money and more protections from the overreach of management.
McKesson partners did not approve this new offer because it was perfect. In my three decades of working to negotiate better contracts for workers I have never seen a perfect contract. That is the simple reality of bargaining and it always will be. Negotiations aren’t about getting everything you want, otherwise they wouldn’t be called “negotiations.” They are about balance, priorities, and effort.
RESPECT ON THE JOB
McKesson partners went on strike a few weeks ago not strictly because of money. In many ways the strike was about far more than that — it was about something we are seeing far too often these days. McKesson partners chose to strike for the first time ever because they were tired of the environment created by management that left them overworked, underappreciated, and disrespected.
People unfamiliar with unions often think a strike is about dollars and cents, and while money is usually a factor, it’s often only one small piece of the puzzle. Almost every worker can relate to the experience of working for a company or a boss that doesn’t show you the respect you deserve, that treats them like a cog in a machine instead of a person seeking to pay their bills and spend time with their family.
At McKesson, the breakdown in the relationship between management and the employees was a central problem at the facility, and while this new contract will not repair that relationship overnight, it features new and strong language which will allow management and this union to collaborate on ways to improve the workplace.
These types of joint Labor and management committees have worked in the past, sometimes to great effect, and I’m eager to engage in that process again. It won’t happen in an instant, but I’m far more confident than before that we can improve the quality of this workplace and thusly, the quality of life for our partners.
Going on strike isn’t easy, and this one was no different. Our partners at McKesson braved long and cold nights and difficult weather that included more than one intense storm that nearly knocked down their only shelter on the line. They missed paychecks and were forced to make difficult financial decisions. Workers don’t endure all of this on a whim, they do it when they feel it’s their only option.
CONTRACT APPROVED BY 2-TO-1 MARGIN
I’m happy to say that our McKesson partners approved their new contract by a 2-to-1 margin. While I’m proud of the work we were able to do to secure them a better offer, and while I have to thank my incredible staff for their hard work in keeping the line together, the true heroes are our partners at McKesson who stayed strong. They did the hardest thing of all, they stood up for themselves and their coworkers because they believed in trying to get something better.
A our partners prepare to return to the job, we at Local 655 are finding ourselves feeling a strong sense of gratitude, not just for the hard work of our partners who were committed to the strike, but also from the support we received from the public. Many of our brothers and sisters in Labor came out to support us with supplies and food and encouragement.
To all of those locals that contributed in the name of solidarity, I want to extend my sincerest “thank you.” This is the solidarity Labor must have to win these tough fights.
We also find ourselves deeply grateful for the financial support from our brothers and sisters in Labor and the community. We established a hardship fund so we could provide financial assistance to striking workers and in one week we raised more than $5,000. Whether it was someone who gave us $10 or $100, our McKesson partners are so grateful and appreciate that kind of support for their cause, and it was truly remarkable to see such passionate support from all of you.
SUPPORTING ONE ANOTHER
Finally, I have to talk about the honor I have to stand with and fight for the hard-working men and women of our union, like the ones at McKesson. As I said before, this contract is not perfect, but time and time again what I saw was not a group of irrational, angry, or greedy workers. What I saw were men and women supporting one another with the firm belief that things can and should be better. They stuck together, worked hard, put in the time, and got just a little bit closer to that better life.