Recent events show a deep-seated fear and frustration from the Rust Belt and those who used to populate our factories. Who are these people and how did we get here? How did both unions and management fail the factory worker? How are our once-vibrant city neighborhoods impacted by this seismic shift?
A Collective Bargain examines the rich character of factory life and explores how the negotiating process is impacted by many factors beyond the control of even those who sit at the bargaining table.
The novel takes place primarily in the grittiest sections of industrial New Jersey. Trey Bensen is a neighborhood kid returned to the local factory where he serves as a deft labor administrator and contract negotiator on behalf of management. The plant- Grean Machining- is part of a larger group of machine shops. Grean is privately held and owned by brothers seeking to sell the business and cash out, leaving their grimy industrial past behind. One buyer makes a lucrative offer contingent upon a new and more favorable labor contract. To accomplish this, the Grean brothers send their corporate “fixer” and family friend Harlowe Mikkelsen to make the deal. Mikkelsen casts his lot with Larry “The Turk” Turkel- International Union agent with an agenda quite different from the local workers in the plant.
In an effort to sort through his conflicted feelings as both a management negotiator and a part of the community, Trey seeks the advice of his dying father, Earl. Earl Bensen seemed to be everywhere and seen everything in the labor movement in the preceding five decades. These life stories ultimately inspire Trey to take actions in the seams between the union and management resulting in unexpected and violent consequences.
Anyone who seeks to give real identity and a face to the American factory worker will enjoy the rich characters who work to make a living at Grean Machining.