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Sat, Nov 29, 2003

Piper Lands A Union

Cuts In Pay, Benefits, Strengthens Machinists’ Bid

The cutbacks that most likely saved New Piper Aircraft apparently had one side effect the company wasn’t hoping for: unionization. By a vote of 310-193, workers at the venerable GA manufacturer have voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Piper appeared nonplussed by the vote. "Yes, there was a vote," Piper spokesman Mark Miller said Wednesday, a day after the vote. He was quoted in the Vero Beach (FL) Press-Journal. "For us, this is business as usual. We made the best aircraft in general aviation before the vote and we will continue to make the best aircraft in general aviation."

The Machininsts union had been knocking on Piper’s door for two years before the vote. But after the company was bought by American Capital Strategies, Ltd. in July, union leaders got a harried phone call from Vero Beach.

"The folks contacted me (this past) August," said Al Granado, a union representative based in Atlanta. "It was one of the quickest moves to unionize that I've ever seen. Usually it takes nine, 10 or 11 months.

"The final straw, the thing that motivated the employees to contact us, was the company took away the employees' 6 percent raise and their health insurance went from $200 a month to $300 a month," said Granado.

Piper’s response? Spokesman Mark Miller said, "It's no secret employees were unhappy with cuts across the board in wages and benefits. We had to put cuts into effect, or we would not have a company in Vero Beach -- or anywhere."

FMI: www.newpiper.com

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