The question and consequence of outsourcing in the lighting industry-not just abroad, but domestically-recently took on a new character with the strike of IBEW Local 3's Fixture Division on November 8, 2004. According to the New York City Central Labor Council's website, this is the Fixture Division's first strike since its founding in 1936. Manufacturing plants still being struck are Linear Lighting and Edison Price in Long Island City, New York; and Rambusch in Jersey City, New Jersey. Members struck after 17 weeks of negotiations, reported the website. Manufacturers that signed an interim agreement, and are consequently not being struck, include: Apogee Translite, Atlite, Legion Lighting, Lightolier, Mark Lighting, and Zumtobel.
The news brief on the website maintains that the struck employers want the option to outsource to non-union plants, and that the union is not willing to concede on this issue. 'Prior to the unfair conduct by the employers, all economic issues pertaining to wages and benefits were settled and the only issue left on the table was the issue of outsourcing,' states Fixture Division Business Representative Thomas Scotland in the brief. The manufacturers being struck maintain that the conflict has not interfered with productivity. Speaking anonymously, an executive with one of the involved manufacturers noted the length of the strike indicates the waning influence of unions in the U.S. manufacturing community.
To date, the dispute does not seem to have substantially affected the design community. 'We are aware of the Local 3 strike,' says New York City-based lighting designer Charles Stone, 'but it hasn't affected our specifications or-to our knowledge-deliveries on our projects. I've had conversations with company presidents while they are tightening wirenuts. That's rolling up your sleeves.' Stone notes outsourcing is not a phenomenon being experienced solely by the manufacturing community: 'Our clients are outsourcing their renderings to Asia, where convincing images can be produced overnight for one-tenth of what it would cost us,' he says. 'It's a changing world.' emilie w. sommerhoff