3/8/08

Ohio Steelworkers strike for higher pay

About 180 workers at Brentwood Originals in Youngstown (OH) walked off the job Friday in a dispute over pay and medical benefits. United Steelworkers of America Local 1-598 called the strike after granting a one-month extension to its last contract, which expired Feb. 6. The North Meridian Road plant makes decorative pillows.

The company offered raises of up to 95 cents an hour over four years, but workers were not satisfied.

“We’re very low on wages,” said Jeanie Kihm, local vice president.

“Eventually, you have to say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Candace Mauck, plant human resources manager, said new workers start at $9.15 an hour, but the company offered to raise that by 75 cents an hour during a four-year contract.

Kihm said wages do not go up fast enough. She said she is making $9.50 after 15 years.

The top wage for union workers is $10.62.

Hattie Wilkins, local president, said the other major issue is health care.

The company pays the full premium for medical insurance, but the annual deductible has risen from $250 to $750.

Wilkins said that amount is too high for the wages that are paid.

She said company officials have said they would make improvements but haven’t put anything specific in writing.

The health care plan covers the workers only, not their families.

Mauck said she didn’t want to go into specifics of the bargaining.

She added, however, that the company is willing to bargain when it is called to the table with a mediator.

The two sides have had nine bargaining sessions since Jan. 28, including two with a mediator, she said.

The company operates four plants across the U.S. and is based in Carson, Calif. Brentwood is owned by Bomaine Corp., which also is based in Carson. Bomaine manufactures household furnishings and packing supplies.

(vindy.com)

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