SOUTH SHORE, Ky. — Members of the United Steel Workers Union (USW) Local 133, launched a strike against Harbison Walker International (HWI), on U.S. 23 in South Shore, who employs 110 USW union workers at the plant site.
Craig Hunt, president of USW Local 133, said their strike materialized at noon Monday in protest of what USW Local 133 claims are unfair labor practices by HWI.
“We took a vote today at noon, and the vote was to strike over the unfair labor practice charges that we’re going to be filing against the company. We’ve got unfair labor practice charges against the company, and that’s why we’re on strike right now,” Hunt said. “The company is trying to change the way that our current retiree’s insurance premiums are calculated, and there are a lot of other issues. We’ve been bargaining with the company since February, and this company has recorded record profits the last couple of years, and with that being said, they thanked us for all of the hard work to record those type of profits and then they come to the table and demand concessions in several different areas
The areas that Hunt said HWI is allegedly demanding concessions in include pensions and insurance premiums.
“No, they don’t want to give us any wage increases so all of these other reductions in pensions, and increase insurance premiums, it takes us backward in wages,” Hunt said. “This company has told us at the table that they are not claiming the inability to pay, they just don’t want to. We also have some safety issues in the plant, and we have some proposals on the table. We handle some hazardous materials in here, chromium oxide, a lot of silica dust, a lot of sillica products and we’ve got a proposal on the table for some uniforms to be supplied, by maybe a company like Cintas, where they would take our clothing and we wouldn’t have to take this hazardous stuff home to our families any longer, and they company is not even willing to address those issues at the table.”
Hunt said USW Local 133 is willing to sit back down at the table with HWI, but in the meantime will be manning the picket line.
“We will be manning the picket line here,” Hunt said. “We are willing to go back to the table with the company at any time, as long as they are willing to bargain a fair contract. “
Roy Martin, International Staff representative for USW, said the objective is to have a fair contract with HWI.
“Our efforts today are to try to fight for a fair contract,” Martin said. “We are trying to maintain the benefits that we currently have. The company wants a concessionary contract and we’ve done everything we can possibly do shy of a strike, so that’s where we’re at today. I am hopeful that the company will respond, and be willing to go back to the table and continue to negotiate. And hopefully, the company is willing to back off on some of the things that they are wanting to take away.”
The Daily Times reached out to staff of HWI, but did not receive a response by deadline.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-464-3862, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.