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Eaton union members reject 2nd contract offer, company will now try hiring permanent replacements

The union says 97% of members voted against the second offer. A company rep. said the goal is still to reach an agreement on a new contract with the union members.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — On Friday, 97% of union members on strike against Eaton Corporation voted to reject a second contract offer, according to a representative from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). 

Hours later, Eaton announced that permanent replacement workers will be hired due to the union employees currently on strike, but negotiations IAM remain ongoing.

According to a statement from IAM, members from Locals 388 and 1191 met on Friday, March 4 to vote on a second proposed contract from Eaton. After a two-hour meeting, 97% of union members voted against the offer. 

The votes comes two weeks after 98% of local union members voted to go on strike against Eaton, saying the company's original contract offer fell flat on wages, health care and retirement including 401k matches. 

"If Eaton's belief was that support within the two bargaining units is waning after two weeks on the strike line, this vote outcome should answer that question," said John Herrig, directing business representative for the union's sixth district, in the union's statement.  

The union says the only difference between the company's first offer and second was a change in structure from a 3-year agreement to a 5-year agreement. IAM maintains the length of the contract was not an issue in negotiations. 

"Once again, this was voted down on the issues of healthcare, retirement and wages," read a statement from Jeremy Vercautren, Local 388 committee member. "It is questionable that this proposal was any different than the last proposal and our membership saw right through that." 

And it looks like the rejection will mean at least another week on the picket line. The union says Eaton representatives will not be available for further negotiations until sometime during the week of March 14 at the earliest. 

"The Union representatives remain on standby and available at any time," read the union's statement. 

The news came after IAM and Eaton held negotiations on March 1 and 2 at Mission Systems Division of Davenport. At that time, the union said a second contract offer had not been reached. 

Now, an Eaton representative told News 8's Shelby Kluver that the company will begin the process of finding new workers to continue day-to-day operations due to the amount of time it takes to train employees.

"It's not a decision we make lightly," part of the statement read. "And our goal remains to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement with the Union." 

RELATED: Union members of Eaton Corporation in Davenport vote to go on strike

A previous statement from Eaton maintained the safety of employees and contractors at any of its sites is the number one priority. 

"We have also conducted additional safety training with our salaried workforce, have additional Environment, Health and Safety managers on site for support, and will have the needed personal protective equipment for use by workers," read the statement. 

But some of those salaried workers are now walking off the job in solidarity with the picket line, alleges IAM. 

"Rumors continue to circulate about salaried employees at Eaton who are leaving due to the work stoppage and additional pressure placed on them to lessen the impact of the strike," the union said in a release. "Several of the salaried employees have stopped by the strike line to say their 'goodbyes' as they leave Eaton for the last time." 

"It's sad to see some good people from the salaried side leave because of conditions inside," said James Anderson, shop chairman for Local 1191's bargaining unit. "I certainly hope that we can reach an agreement that is competitive with the cost of living instead of Eaton's lowest paid facilities." 

Eaton maintains the proposed contracts are, "Equitable and consistent with nationwide market trends and with our goal of attracting and retaining skilled workers." 

Union members have been on strike outside of Eaton's facility in west Davenport since midnight on Feb. 18. Eaton explained they were "surprised" that some of their employees chose to go on strike given talks of a new union deal that appeared to be nearly complete at that time. 

Before local union workers voted to go on strike, Eaton maintains both parties had reached tentative agreements to provide more vacation, greater scheduling certainty and flexibility, additional leave, retirement and health care plans in that first agreement. 

"While the parties did not reach an agreement on wages, the parties were only marginally apart at the time the union went on strike," continued the statement.

Eaton's Davenport facility is located on the western side of the city on Hickory Grove Road. It specializes in contract work for the U.S. government and other aerospace companies. The workers on strike make a variety of products including aerial refueling equipment, fuel tank inverting systems and other environmental products for the military, according to a company spokesperson. 

Last year, Eaton Corporation bought Cobham, which owned the manufacturing plant in Davenport, for $2.8 billion.

The Davenport plant employs almost 1,000 people, putting it in the top 20 major employers in the Quad Cities, according to the Quad Cities Chamber.  

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