For around a ten years, ironworkers at the Erie Strayer Business in Pennsylvania have been pushing for a dental system, but the enterprise refuses to budge. It was taken off the table throughout negotiations for the previous two five-yr contracts, and this 12 months, the enterprise has the moment all over again refused the proposal.
How poorly do these personnel want dental?
“I’ve viewed a employee welding with a swollen confront and an ice pack. An additional dude asked for my needle-nose pliers and pulled his personal tooth in front of me,” says Glenn Ybanez, one particular of the Erie Strayer ironworkers who has now been on strike for 10 weeks.
The Iron Workers Regional Store Area 851 began negotiating a new agreement with Erie Strayer in March of this 12 months, and their prior agreement expired in April. They want a 3 per cent elevate, which quantities to all over 60 cents an hour — a modest proposal in a instant when inflation is managing effectively previously mentioned that fee — and dental, which would charge the organization approximately yet another 3 percent.
But Erie Strayer has no curiosity in the requirements of these staff, who make an average of $19.10 an hour to deliver hefty-batch concrete-making machinery. Irrespective of the large skill expected for these kinds of labor, the union says they make significantly less than the area median salary. In its place of accepting the workers’ proposals, the firm available a nickel-an-hour elevate for the 1st calendar year of the deal and no dental, provoking the strike.
“My spouse and I are hoping to figure out how we’ll come up with income to purchase our kids Christmas gifts because the enterprise claims I’m not really worth additional than a nickel,” stated Tim Donnell, one of the strikers. “Meanwhile, they’ve received no issue shelling out cash on landscaping tasks.”
“They had been supplying absolutely nothing in the to start with year, 5 cents in the second yr, and 5 or 10 cents in the 3rd year,” suggests Local 851 vice president and enterprise consultant Tracy Cutright. “The entire factor amounted to significantly less than 90 cents over the 5-12 months agreement. We took a strike vote in September, and we went on strike on Oct 4.”
Cutright claims workers also want a 3-yr, relatively than five-year, contract, specified that the latter locks them in for far far too extended, leaving them unable to enact significantly-essential alterations. Even more, the employees are pushing for a alter in the company’s draconian attendance plan.
Employees now get a few times for bereavement, for illustration, but they need to contact into a call center to report their absence on each individual a single of those people times. Failure to do so is deemed a no connect with, no present, and docks them attendance points. “I’ve had people in the unexpected emergency room have to call from the ICU,” claims Cutright.
When the strike commenced, it encompassed forty-two personnel. In the months considering that, a number of personnel have give up or retired, and five have crossed the picket line, leaving twenty-eight ironworkers manning the 24/7 picket line (they say that if you’d like to help them, you can quit by the line at 1851 Rudolph Avenue in Erie or donate to their strike fund). Regardless of the length of the strike, the workers think the enterprise has only been ready to employ, at most, two replacements, a lack that employees attribute to the company’s low wages as nicely as widespread local assist for labor, which helps make the prospect of scabbing unacceptably shameful to prospective hires.
“The company’s mantra early on was ‘We’re not fascinated in spending GE [now Wabtec] wages.’ Properly, they are not even in the exact ballpark as GE,” says Cutright. The plant ran 7 days a 7 days by means of the pandemic, and did not absence for contracts. Erie Strayer also acquired a $1.2 million Paycheck Safety System grant for payroll.
“I shouldn’t have to pick involving shelling out time with my family or earning adequate to make ends fulfill,” claimed David Miller, just one of the strikers. “Working forty several hours a week really should be ample, but I just can’t protect the mortgage loan and present for my spouse and children on my standard salary. The business understands we can’t make ends fulfill on our standard wage. Alternatively of giving us a respectable raise, they press us to work additional hrs — from time to time seven times for every 7 days. It feels like financial blackmail.”
3 bargaining sessions have taken location because the strike started, but Erie Strayer stays intransigent.
“We bargained this week and they put across an provide of 25 cents a yr for 5 a long time, no dental, no back again fork out, no signing reward, no variations to the attendance policy,” states Cutright. The subsequent bargaining session is scheduled for December 17. Local community support remains regular, with locals stopping by to be part of the picket line or donate food stuff and drinks. Other unions, far too, have been reinforcing the line, and a rally previous thirty day period noticed local and state-degree elected officials in attendance as very well. As for the strikers, they’re ready for the extensive haul.
“They’re in it all the way,” claims Cutright. “It can be cold. It can be pouring down rain. They say, ‘We really do not care. We’re here.’”