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Costanza, A 35-Year Union Man, Likes The New Ways At Xerox With BC-The Factory

June 14, 1987

WEBSTER, N.Y. (AP) _ When the water quit at Tony Costanza’s house, the union leader took a shower at the factory and showed up tieless for a 7 a.m. meeting with management.

At Xerox Corp.’s copier plant here, formality is as obsolete as fist- pounding in strategy sessions between management and labor.

Costanza knotted his tie and changed his shoes in the office of Eric Steenburgh, a senior vice president, after the meeting was over.

″Our attitude when we go into a meeting now is, ’Here’s our problem, what’s the best way of solving it?″ said Costanza, 55, a 35-year employee and the top union man at Xerox’s biggest copier plant.

″The unions will be looking at different things in the future, becoming partners in the business. We hope to have the fact sheets open to us - understand where the company’s investing, and why they’re investing, so we have more input.

″We’re going to get closer together running the business, making sure our people share in the benefits. If we don’t do that, the competition’s going to beat us. Together we’re fighting the overseas competition,″ he said.

Costanza’s untraditional views have not hurt him in union politics. In July he will leave the Xerox payroll to become manager of the Rochester joint board of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, which covers all ACTWU members in a wide swath of upstate New York.

Times are changing at Xerox and throughout U.S. industry, he says, and unions need to change with them. ″I can make $15 or $20 an hour, but it doesn’t matter if there’s no job for me afterward.″

In an unusual turnabout, hourly employees have occasionally taken the lead in cutting costs at Xerox.

Faced with losing a wire-harness assembly operation to Mexico, for example, a team of four hourly and two salaried Xerox workers pored over the books looking for a way to keep it in Webster.

They ended up proposing, among other things, more automation, shorter coffee breaks and a job classification for future hires that would pay about 40 percent less.

″The people proposed that. If I had done that, there would have been a strike,″ Steenburgh said. The assembly operation was saved.

After a period of bloodletting that included massive layoffs, contracts signed in 1983 and 1986 have included job-security clauses. Wages are again rising at about the cost of living.

″We maintain our wages now. Even though we have less jobs than before, those who are still here look like they have sound jobs,″ Costanza said.

End Adv Sunday June 14

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