WINDHAM, Ohio (WKBN) – An entire union is on strike, protesting what it says is unfair contract negotiations.
USW Local 8565 works for HarbisonWalker International in Windham. They say the company is trying to take away benefits they’ve had for decades.
“Wages, benefits — they want to freeze our retirements,” said Harry Amie, president of Local 8565. “They don’t want to give us anything on our 401K’s.”
HarbisonWalker International, responding to a request for comment, said United Steelworkers International Union and its Local 8565 rejected its recent contract offer and began the strike on September 30.
The strike comes after five weeks of failed contract negotiations.
Since its collecting bargaining agreement expired September 15, HarbisonWaker said it has been willing to operate under the terms and conditions of the expired collecting bargaining agreement while working toward a new contract.
“Our objective throughout the bargaining process has been to maintain a successful operation that keeps workers employed and customers’ needs met,” the statement read. “HWI is disappointed that since contract negotiations began, the union has voted down two comprehensive proposals that included wage increases and a continuation of the highly market-competitive benefits package.”
Local 8565 says taking the offered contract would come with major consequences.
“If we accept this contract, it sets a precedent for future contracts as far as what they will come for next,” said Matt McManus of Local 8565.
“This is not a short-term game we’re looking for,” Tim Perkins of Local 8565. “We’re looking for our long-term future of us, our family, our coworkers.”
The union rejected HarbisonWalker International’s most recent offer by 64 to 15 votes.
Older members say they need to stand up for the younger workers.
“The guys that came before me did this for me,” said Jerry Kiser of local 8565 said. “This is my job — to do it for them, to make sure that they’re treated fairly.”
USW Local 8565 wants to get back to work. But until HarbisonWalker International presents them with a better contract, they say they’re standing firm.
“Nobody wants to be out here,” Perkins said. “But also no one wants to be taken advantage of and looked down upon every day when we do, like I said, above and beyond — like we all do in there.”
HarbisonWalker said until an agreement is reached, the company has implemented a contingency plan in order to fulfill current orders.