11/18/08

Engineers' strike now at day 10

More strike stories: hereRelated story: "The 28 labor-states"

Typical labor-state work stoppage

Day three, and still no package for the people.

More than 500 A.B. Chance factory workers beared cold temperatures this morning picketing, as talks between plant and union officials continued.

The workers reportedly went out on strike against A.B. Chance Company and Hubbell Inc., Saturday afternoon, following a contract negotiation meeting concerning retirement benefits and insurance coverage, along with other non-economic issues.

While company human resource officials declined to comment today, Union President Matt Jackson with the 86821 IUE-CWA said that both sides are still trying to work things out.

"We're still talking with the company, and we eventually hope to get these people back to work with the benefits we feel they deserve," Jackson told The Ledger, as some 100 plus union employees stood vigilant outside the manufacturing facility and throughout Centralia, with signs of protest.

"We've got meetings lined up and we're getting committees together so we can get back to the table to hammer something out that is successful for both the people and the company."

According to Jackson, the company's proposed contract change could remove retirement benefits – which would not be in the best interest of a wide range of people, mainly those nearing retirement.

"What the company is wanting to take and or change is what got us to where we are today," said Jackson. "I realize that negotiations are give and take all the way across the board, but all these retirees want is the ability to retire early and have some medical coverage and life insurance."

The plant currently employs some 800-900 workers, manufacturing plastics, construction materials and power line tools.

Those workers most affected, Jackson said, are those age 55 to 64.

"With a few minor changes here or there, we could probably work this thing out. What they are asking is not a lot more than what was offered to them," said Jackson. "But, I have to say I really admire these workers for standing up for themselves.

"It was their decision to go out on strike while the discussions continued."

Jackson said today that workers were picketing every inch of the grounds, and that 18-wheelers were lined up on Hwy. 22, refusing to cross the picket line.

"Other unions are backing us as well," Jackson said. "Trucks with all their products, won't cross the picket line, and the railroad won't come in and pull scrap cars out, which is going to be difficult for the company to move products in and out."

At this point, he noted, "We really hope to get back to the table because we don't want to hurt the company's finance. We're still looking to get what is right for these people."

(mexicoledger.com)

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