United Steelworkers Vote to Accept Contract Offer from Braskem

By: WSAZ News Staff, Sarah Sager Email
By: WSAZ News Staff, Sarah Sager Email

UPDATE 5/3/11 @ 5:30 p.m.
KENOVA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- United Steelworkers members have voted to accept a contract offered by Braskem officials.

The vote ends a union strike that's lasted eight and a half months.

The company has requested all employees report to the Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington at 9 a.m. Wednesday for an information meeting and training schedules.

Union officials say it will be approximately two weeks before the workers can legally return to the plant in Wayne County.

UPDATE 5/3/11 @ 5:30 p.m.
KENOVA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It's been eight and a half months of negotiations and federal mediation.

"Those are our jobs in that plant and have been for years. That's what we want are our jobs back," says Braskem Chemical Worker and union spokesperson Tom Sullivan.

After a long time United Steelworkers at local 721 have agreed to bring a contract offer from Braskem to a vote.

Kyle Colvin is a relief operator at Braskem.

"It feels good to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Colvin.

Colvin has been out of work for the better part of a year.

Now, he's ready to go back.

"For me personally, I need to get back to work. I really do. I think most of us need to get back to work. I think it will be good for the plant, for the community and all the employees," says Colvin.

Of the 72 workers who initially went on strike, only 70 will be voting.

"It's time that we get something settled between the company and the Union. It's been a hardship on everybody involved, in the plant and out of the plant both. It's just time that we at least try to come to some kind of terms here," says Sullivan.

If a majority agrees to the offered contract, the workers will go back to their jobs.

"Well, if it doesn't go through that means we're back to the table," says Colvin.

WSAZ contacted Braskem for a comment on the vote locally and at the corporate level.

At this time, they have not returned out calls.

Union officials ended voting at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday.

We'll keep you updated as soon as the votes are counted.

Officials say it will be at least two weeks before the workers can legally go back to work.

UPDATE 5/3/11 @ 10:39 a.m.
KENOVA, W.Va. (AP) - Striking United Steelworkers members at the Braskem Chemical plant in Wayne County are voting on a proposed contract.

Members of Local 721 will vote on the proposal from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Kenova City Hall.

The workers have been on strike since last November.

The Neal plant produces polypropylene, a plastic used in packaging, carpets, stationery, lab equipment and automotive parts. Braskem acquired the plant from Sunoco Chemicals, Inc. in April 2010, along with facilities in Pennsylvania and Texas.

UPDATE 2/15/11 @ 10:50 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Union workers at a Wayne County chemical plant are back at the bargaining table, nearly six months to the day since they hit the picket line.

72 union workers at Braskem Chemical in Neal, W.Va. went on strike back on August 16.

Tuesday morning a mediator began three days of talks between Steel Workers Union 721 and the company, according to a union spokesperson. The talks are taking place at a downtown Huntington hotel. Workers set up an informational picket outside the hotel for several hours Tuesday.

The last time both sides were at the bargaining table was back on January 6.

Union officials say workers are concerned about reduced retirement benefits and higher insurance costs

The union’s contract with the company expired in June.

Braskem manufactures a variety of plastic products used in coal mining and other industries. This is the former Sunoco Chemical Plant. It is located along Big Sandy Road in Wayne County.

UPDATE 2/2/11 @ 7 p.m.
KENOVA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Almost six months and still no contract -- that's what 72 Braskem Chemical Plant workers are dealing with after failed contract negotiations time and time again.

"The guys on the picket line, all we're looking for is a fair, equal contract," says Tom Sullivan, an operator for Braskem.

Sullivan's been a union worker for 37 years. For the past six months, he and the rest of the Local 721steelworkers have been on strike from the plant in Kenova, not over wage issues, but benefits and pension.

"This strike really wouldn't affect me or guys my age too much," Sullivan says. "But it will the next generation, and that's exactly what we're trying to take a stand on for -- our children and grandkids."

The workers' contract expired in June. After a couple months of extensions, union members went on strike Aug. 15. Since then, the company has put three "last, best and final offers" on the table.

"In our opinion and our committee's opinion, nothing has changed," Sullivan says.

Chris Bland, vice president of Braskem America Manufacturing, tells WSAZ.com, "In terms of benefits, we provided an offer that we believe is fair, comprehensive and above what is considered average for the industry. We think it's competitive in not only the chemical industry but the manufacturing industry in the Tri-State Area."

Braskem says it's planning on hiring temporary workers while this contract dispute continues.

Local 721 president, Terry Carpenter, filed "bad-faith" charges January 13. There is now a federal investigation underway.

NEAL, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Dozens of union workers are off the job in a contract dispute that stretches back to late June.

At 12:01 a.m. Monday, 72 workers at the Braskem Chemical Plant in Neal, W.Va. walked off the job after rejecting the company's latest offer. The workers, members of Steelworkers 721, hit the picket lines at 6 a.m. Monday.

Braskem manufactures a variety of plastic products used in coal mining and other industries. This is the former Sunoco Chemical Plant. It is located along Big Sandy Road in Wayne County.

The union's contract expired June 28th, but the workers stayed on the job until midnight.

The union says the latest contract offer includes acceptable hourly wages, but workers are concerned about higher insurance costs, and lower retirement benefits.

The company says the latest contract is its best and final offer.

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