Malden Mills largest union, representing over 700 employees, rejected the companys “best and final” contract offer and could go on strike as early as December 7. According to local papers, union members voted 231-198 to authorize a strike and reject the three-year contract offer. The offer included pay raises but balanced them with higher health insurance premiums.
If the strike goes through, Malden would see 70% of its workforce walk out the door, effectively crippling domestic production. U.S. production workers currently average about $12.50 an hour. The stumbling block in the negotiations is the increased costs for insurance.
The company will raise employee contributions for individual health insurance membership to $18 per week, compared to $6 under the current contract. Premiums for families would jump from $9 to $35.
While Maldens former president & CEO, Aaron Feuerstein, was dedicated to keeping production in Lawrence, Mass., the companys new owners, primarily GE Capital, have been toying with the idea of moving all production to Asia. Feuerstein has been trying to buy back control of the company, but has yet to make an offer in line with the parameters set out in the original bankruptcy agreement.
Feuersteins most recent offer was said to exceed the original buy-back price of $92 million, but came in well below the $124 million price tag the company expects. The longer it takes Feuerstein to come up with the financing for the deal, the higher the price rises.