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Workers 'locked out' of DL Snappy's plant after union rejects pay cuts

The company isn't returning phone calls, but workers were locked out of the Snappy Air Distribution plant in Detroit Lakes on Monday morning, and the company is advertising for temporary workers to replace the locked out union workers.

Snappy's is owned by Standex Air Distribution Products. Calls to the local office were referred to Jim Mettling in Salem, New Hampshire, who failed to return repeated phone messages left over several days.

Jerry Oswald of Frazee, who has worked at Snappy's for 39 years, said the lockout occurred after union members voted not to accept the company's final offer on a new three-year contract.

The old three-year contract expired March 15.

Oswald said the company's offer would have been bad enough for the 79 workers still at the plant, but much worse for those who had been laid off and hope to be called back to work as the construction season picks up.

There were about 280 workers at Snappy's during the height of the housing boom a few years ago, he said.

Workers at the plant make at least $18 an hour, he said.

But the plant has always been one of the most productive in the Standex family, and has always made money for the company -- lots of money during the boom times, Oswald said.

The company originally proposed a 10 percent wage cut for the 79 remaining workers, who would also had to pay about $100 a month more for health insurance, Oswald said.

Its final offer was a 5 percent wage cut the first year and a 3.5 percent cut the second year, along with the higher insurance costs.

"That was for us old guys," Oswald said.

The contract would have required a bigger cut from the 28 workers next in line on the seniority list, he said. They are currently laid off but he expects that group of workers to be called back.

Under the rejected contract, that group would have suffered a $3.50 an hour pay cut with no raises for three years, he said.

They would have paid about 30 percent more for their health insurance on top of that, he said.

Those below No. 107 on the seniority list would have faced even steeper pay cuts. They would be kicked off the seniority list after a year, instead of the current two-year period, and if hired back would be paid $12 an hour instead of the $18 they were making, he said.

"Some of those people have been here 20 years," Oswald said.

Under its current management, Standex cares more about its bottom line than it does about its employees, he said.

"Usually if you want people to take a pay cut, you open your books and show them -- it's called being 'in poverty,'" Oswald said. "They said 'no, we're not losing money, we want to make more.' That's kind of how it is these days (in corporate America) they're making millions and they just want more."