EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSUNION WORKERS STRIKE
from Eyewitness News Online
700 Constellium United Steel Workers Strike
Reported by: Kristin Keeling
Videographer: Aakash Vaghela
Web Producer: Kristin Keeling
Reported: Aug. 5, 2012 5:45 PM EDT
Updated: Aug. 5, 2012 6:14 PM EDT
Ravenswood , Jackson County , West Virginia
The battle continues in Ravenswood between Constellium Rolled Products and its retirees and employees represented by the United Steel Workers.
But now the battle has boiled over. The two sides have attempted to reach an agreement on a new contract, but couldn't.
And at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, the employees decided to strike. Nearly 700 production maintenance employees from the Union are on strike.
"We just want a fair contract," said Constellium employee, Jamie Wolfe.
The contract negotiations have been going on since May, but the two sides haven't found common ground.
Retirees and workers are both angry over changes they say Constellium wants to make to their health insurance, like caps on costs which they say could affect their pension.
But Constellium says they have done their part in the negotiations, presenting multiple contracts. But on Saturday the Union rejected the latest alternative, without voting on the proposal.
Constellium CEO Kyle Lorentzen released a statement saying:
"We believe we bent over backwards and worked hard in an effort to get our healthcare costs contained and help set this plant up for success in the future."
He went on to say: "No one wins a strike, and that is especially true for the Ravenswood community."
This is a community where strikes have been common over the years, but this one hits hard. Constellium is Jackson County's largest employer with more than 700 workers, and neighboring Century Aluminum remains shut down with hundreds of people still without work.
But employees at Constellium are hopeful they can reach an agreement and get back to work.
"We've left it open to negotiate again so that's always possible," said Wolfe. "There's always hope. There's always optimism there."
A Union Spokesperson says he plans to release an official statement on the strike later in the week. As for how long they will stay on strike, he says as long as it takes to reach an agreement.
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