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Union, Graphic Packaging Reach Contract Agreement
October 24, 2006
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WEST MONROE, La. -- Graphic Packaging's carton plant workers have ratified a three-year labor agreement after almost 14 months of negotiations.

"We finally got it done," said David Broussard, the international representative of United Steel Workers who negotiated the deal. "It's been a long time coming."

More than 400 USW Local 4-654 members had been working under a contract agreement that expired Aug. 31, 2005.

The membership voted to authorize a strike in July as a bargaining tool.

"A strike is always a last resort," Broussard said. "You never want it to have to go to that, and we're happy that it didn't. Both sides were ready to settle."

The union ratified the contract Friday by an overwhelming majority, Broussard said.

Under the deal, the workers will get a 2 percent wage increase each year of the contract as well as some pension improvements and the union agreed to pay more of the cost of health care benefits, he said.

The average hourly wage at Graphic Packaging's West Monroe facility is $16.35, Broussard said.

Graphic Packaging operates its carton plant in the same complex where it also operates a paper mill, which employs about 600. Paper mill employees already have a labor agreement in place.

Meanwhile, negotiations remain stalled at Bancroft Bag's plant in West Monroe and Smurfit-Stone's paper mill in Hodge, Broussard said.

Bancroft's 350 union employees have been working under a contract that expired on May 1. The USW membership there voted in June to authorize a possible strike if a deal can't be reached.

Broussard said Smurfit-Stone's 500 USW members have been working under a contract that expired on July 1. He said that a vote to authorize a possible strike there is scheduled for Monday.

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