By Kirk Johannesen, The Republic

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   An auto parts manufacturer will remain in business after a union vote Tuesday overwhelmingly accepted wage cuts and changes to insurance premiums and retirement contributions. 

    Columbus Components Group, which employs about 400, sent a letter to employees Feb. 9 stating that because of the slumping economy and automotive industry, the company was faced with the possibility of closing as early as March 1.

    The company sought agreement on contract changes with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1424. 

    The union, with a membership of about 230, voted 156-20 in favor of the contract and concessions, said Jerry Wagner, business manager for the union. A handful of votes were voided, and about 40 employees didn't vote. 

    "We live another day," Wagner said. 

    CCG stamps parts for auto companies, including Cummins Inc., EMCON Technologies and TRW Automotive

    Wagner said some people had expressed frustration with the changes, but when they looked at the reality of the job market and hearing of 200 being laid off from NTN Driveshaft last week, they thought accepting the changes and having a job was a better option. 

    Union members accepted a 5 percent pay cut, an increase in insurance premiums and deductibles, and suspension of company contributions to employees' 401(k) plans.

Emotional decision 

    The decision to vote in favor of the wage cuts and changes to insurance and 401(k) contributions was simple for some employees. 

    "It's really a no-brainer. It's better to take a little cut than stand in the unemployment line," said Anthony Davis, a maintenance worker and 12-year employee. 

    Increases in insurance premiums hurt, Davis said, but that mirrors what is happening to employees everywhere. 

    With a wife and two children in school, Davis said he has to be a provider. So, he thought it was better to vote for the contract and keep his job. 

    John and Mary Schoonover, who have been laid off from CCG, voted for the contract changes. 

    "We'd rather be working," John said. 

    Sheila Trosclair, a six-year employee and production associate, said this vote was simply a case of having a job versus not having a job. 

    "You'd be stupid to lose it," she said, citing a good wage compared to other options. 

    Larry Clary, a maintenance worker, voted for the contract but said the wage reductions and changes to insurance will hurt. 

    His property suffered damage in the June 2008 flood. Insurance covered his house, but not a garage and another small home on the property. 

    Clary has had to pay for repairs to those structures out of his pocket while supporting a wife, two children and a disabled relative. 

    "It's going to be tough. But, it's all over the news, it's not just this place," Clary said. 

    Chris Pendleton, a welder who has worked at CCG for two years, said the changes to health insurance influenced his decision to vote against the proposed contract. 

    The deductible for employees with families increased from $500 to $1,000. 

    Pendleton, who has been laid off since January, said he can live with a pay cut, but doesn't have $1,000 to pay up front for medical care. 

    The concessions made Pendleton wrestle with his decision. 

    "I just sat there for 10 minutes thinking, got mad and voted no," he said. 

    Attempts to reach CCG management for comment on the union vote were unsuccessful.

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