By Brad Bauer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eramet workers wave to passing motorists at the picket line Sunday near the entrance to the plant's Ohio 7 location.
BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Steelworkers at Eramet Marietta rejected a proposed labor contract
Saturday, and now 290 workers consider themselves “locked out” of the
Ohio 7 plant, which is continuing operations with salaried personnel,
union members said.
Denny Longwell, staff representative of the
United Steelworkers Union, said plant employees offered to continue
working under an existing contract as bargaining negotiations continued.
The company’s three-year contract with local USW 1-00639 expired at midnight Sunday.
went to work at 11 p.m. Saturday and we were met at the gate,” Longwell
said. “They told us we were on strike and I told them we weren’t on
strike — that our contract was still in place until midnight and that
we were willing to work. The only thing that we needed to know was what
the pay rate would be.”
“We were there ready to go to work and they said no.”
Human Resources Director Jerry Jenkins, who has led the negotiations
for the company, said the group has worked hard to come up with a
contract that would help ensure the long-term viability of the plant
opened more than 50 years ago along Ohio 7 between Marietta and Belpre.
He said he was disappointed the union members voted down the contract.
Jenkins confirmed the group did offer to continue working under their old contract.
didn’t want to continue operating under the old contract, because it
was our objective to make changes in that contract,” Jenkins said.
“They rejected those changes.”
Jim Deem, local steelworkers
union president, said Eramet is aiming to freeze workers’ pension
plans, cap insurance for retired workers and to raise current
employees’ out-of-pocket medical expenses by as much as 85 percent.
“You’ve got to draw a line somewhere,” Deem said.
Deem declined to say what the final union vote was on the contract proposal.
“A good majority were against it,” Deem said. “It wasn’t close.”
the dispute is labeled a strike or a lockout may seem like a moot point
to some as workers find themselves in need of unemployment benefits.
Such was the case in Monroe County at the Ormet plants, where
steelworkers workers were ruled to have been locked out of that
facility during a 20-month labor dispute that ended last month.
Neville, 56, of Marietta, a 24-year employee of Eramet, said he voted
against the new contract. He said employees made several concessions in
their last contract and since then the company has made record profits.
“We deserve a decent wage and a decent retirement,” Neville said.
labor dispute at Eramet is the first since 1985, when members of the
Oil, Chemical and Atomic workers walked off their jobs for three weeks.
At that time, the company was owned by Elkem. Eramet, a French-owned
company, took control of the plant in 1999.
“We’ve enjoyed a
very good relationship with the unionized workforce at this facility
throughout our history and even though we’re experiencing a strike now,
we’re continuing to do everything in our power to preserve that
relationship so that we can all get back to work as soon as possible,”
Jenkins said in a written statement.
Eramet officials said as of Sunday there are no talks scheduled to take place between the groups.
over 50 years, Eramet’s local plant has produced manganese and other
special metal products used by the steel, aluminum, superalloys and
specialty steel industries. Eramet Marietta is one of the largest
producers of these products in the world, according to the company.
On the Net: www-erametmarietta.com
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