Somber end to strike
Only 15 employees
return to Camillus Cutlery
Approximately 80 members of the Steelworkers Local 4783 walked out of Camillus Cutlery in May after rejecting a contract which would reduce wages and increase healthcare costs, as well as cut vacation time and severance pay.
The company stated severe financial crisis as the reason why they asked the union for the cost reductions.
Before walking out workers had been operating on a four-day work week and had been getting sent home early since January.
For months union members picketed 24 hours a day in front of the plant. At one point they placed a giant inflatable rat in front of the plant to symbolize their mistrust of the company.
"We want to fight for a fair contract, but if the company knows they are not going to give us one they should just let us know," Union member Lynn Williams said at the beginning of the strike.
Company officials repeatedly declined statements to the media and had minimal contact with union officials.
Union members received unemployment checks, but as months past some of the union members left the picket line to seek employment elsewhere. Although, the majority of the workers held out until mid- November when the union and the company went back to the negotiation table.
At their meeting with company officials in November, six-months after the strike began, the union approved the contract.
When the contract was approved, workers knew that it was likely that some of them would lose their jobs; however, when approximately 80 employees lined up at the door the following day they were sent home.
The following day the company announced that they would only be returning 15 employees to the plant.
The 15 employees who returned to the plant did so for less pay. Former employees were offered TAA benefits which allow for extended unemployment and money for education, but received no severance packages.
The company no longer needs as many employees because a majority of their knives are now imported from foreign countries and shipped to the United States with the Cutlery name on them.
The manufacturing of quality knives began in the Cutlery building in 1876 and has always been an integral part of the landscape in the Village of Camillus.