Local 435 improves working conditions, pay and benefits in Gainesville

Local 435 improves working conditions, pay and benefits in Gainesville

Florida is a so-called “right-to-work” state, where unions have consistently resisted anti-worker attacks from corporate-backed legislators seeking to weaken our collective bargaining power. But that hasn’t stopped SMART Local 435 (Jacksonville, Fla.) from organizing. And in June, Local 435 successfully signed a fabrication contract with PreCast Florida, a concrete manufacturing company that partners with sheet metal fabricators.

“All workers should have representation and benefits,” said Lance Fout, Local 435 business leader, in announcing the new signatory.

Local 435 Manager Lance Fout, standing, third from left, with PreCast Florida employees.

The PreCast signing campaign grew out of Local 435’s relationship with another union contractor, Southern State Duct Masters, which signed with the local in 2022.

“Southern State is very pleased and the business is growing,” Fout explained. “Since they signed, they have a new laser machine, a spiral machine, a new building; they are thriving.”

Southern State owner Ashley Moore’s brother and sister-in-law bought a precast concrete company shortly afterward and renamed it PreCast Florida. Despite the change in ownership and name, PreCast had major problems recruiting and retaining employees, Fout explained, largely due to a lack of benefits.

Moore then suggested that PreCast contact Local 435.

“They weren’t sure what that would look like, but they were open to the idea,” Fout recalls.

Local 435 took the initiative, meeting with management and workers and explaining the benefits of a union. (The workers were shocked by what they could gain, Fout said.) From there, the process was simple: Local 435 drew up a production agreement that included health care, a 401(k) plan, vacation and holiday pay, and the company gave all of its workers a raise to cover the cost of union dues.

PreCast Florida officially signed the union contract with the local government on June 1. The benefits the union provides are already being felt by employees in the shop.

“They’re ready to make doctor appointments, I’m sure of it,” Fout said.

Local 435’s newest production workers are making concrete light poles, picnic tables, structural castings and ornamental structures, displaying the same craftsmanship and artistry as their brothers and sisters who work directly with sheet metal. Additionally, Fout said, Local 435 members at Southern State Duct Masters are fabricating a number of metal forms that PreCast workers will use for their concrete molds, creating more labor hours for members at both shops.

“It is a bit outside the normal scope of work, but we have a good relationship with the employer, a strong contract and the employees are happy,” he concluded.