Byline: Ray Clune

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Members of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union have overwhelmingly approved their first contract with Tultex Corp., which calls for a 13 percent wage increase over the life of the three-year agreement.
The contract, covering 2,350 hourly workers, was approved at a meeting in Martinsville on Sunday night. Tultex workers in Martinsville and Henry County voted last August for ACTW representation.
“The contract is an excellent settlement, and the relationship that has been established between the company and the union through the process of these negotiations has been tremendous,” said Bruce Raynor, ACTW executive vice president and Southern regional director.
Raynor said the election victory at Tultex last summer was the union’s largest win in the South since the J.P. Stevens win in 1974, “and it’s important because it increases the union’s coverage with the Southern textile industry significantly.”
The agreement gives workers a wage increase of 5 percent during the first year, and 4 percent wage increases in each of the following two years. It also includes an increase in annual Christmas bonuses, health insurance improvements, increased pension benefits and an overtime payment schedule.
The average hourly wage before the new contract was $8 an hour, according to the ACTW.
The contract is effective April 3 and is not subject to the wage and benefit negotiations that are held annually with many other textile firms.
“This is a built-in wage and benefit structure, which is different from many of the textile contracts in the South,” said Raynor.
He added that the union will begin opening this year’s contract negotiations very soon with Cone Mills, Fieldcrest Cannon, Springs Industries, Swift Textiles and Greenwood Mills.