Patty’s Corner – New Agreement Reached with Columbia

April 5, 2016

When I left off the Columbia story, we had received a last best and final offer, the fences had been put up and the porta potties delivered.

During the following three weeks, the parties were at a tense standstill. We began a pressure campaign against Columbia, including a threat of a flyer at Trader Joe’s and discussions with customers and suppliers. We also contacted Meritage, the hedge fund that owns Columbia. Our members were on standby, and we asked them to continue working until they heard differently from Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks.

Columbia responded by doing what we asked them not to do—they publicized the economics of their last, best and final. For some reason, they thought they would get a favorable reaction and the members would put pressure on the leadership to vote the offer. That move backfired and instead enraged the employees even more. When that didn’t work, Columbia mailed the offer to their houses, including a link where they could review the entire document online or download it for even more reading pleasure.

Apparently our pressure campaign worked better than theirs. With some prodding from the Federal Mediator, Columbia through an email said they were willing to return to the bargaining table to see if we could reach an agreement (while reserving their right to return to their LBF).

When we got back to the table, we were able to come up with a significantly improved package. Columbia withdrew the takeaways, and with the addition of two more years onto the previous three-year offer resulting in a five-year deal, added significantly more money as well.

On April 2, at another well-attended meeting, the Columbia membership ratified the contract with a 93% yes vote.