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UPDATE: W.Va. Panel Upholds Unemployment Compensation for Constellium Workers

By: Brooks Jarosz, Jennifer Rizzi Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, Jennifer Rizzi Email

UPDATE 3/1/13 @ 10:45 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia panel has upheld a ruling awarding unemployment compensation benefits to Constellium workers who went on strike at its Ravenswood aluminum plant last summer.

Union workers at the plant went on a nearly seven-week strike on Aug. 5 after the company proposed changes to union members' health benefit plans.

More than 600 workers applied for unemployment compensation benefits.

Constellium had appealed a December decision by the state Labor Dispute Tribunal.

The three-member tribunal said the workers could receive the benefits because there wasn't a work stoppage at the plant during the strike.

Workforce West Virginia spokeswoman Courtney Sisk confirmed Thursday that Constellium lost that appeal.

The strike ended Sept. 23 when United Steelworkers Local 5668 members ratified a five-year contract.



UPDATE 12/24/12 @ 11:51 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Constellium plans to challenge a ruling that awarded unemployment compensation benefits to workers who went on strike at its Ravenswood aluminum plant earlier this year.

Constellium spokeswoman Laura Prisc tells the Associated Press that the company will appeal last week's decision by the state Labor Dispute Tribunal. The appeal will go to the Board of Review.

The three-member tribunal said the workers could receive the benefits because there wasn't a work stoppage at the plant during the strike.

The strike began Aug. 5 and ended the following month when United Steelworkers Local 5668 members ratified a five-year contract.

A state government spokeswoman says 609 workers applied for unemployment compensation benefits. The maximum weekly benefit is $424.



UPDATE 12/17/12 @ 3:40 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Hundreds of Constellium aluminum plant workers who went on strike for nearly seven weeks earlier this year will receive unemployment compensation benefits.

A three-member state Labor Dispute Tribunal ruled Monday that the striking workers could receive the benefits because there was not a work stoppage at the plant during the standoff that began Aug. 5. It ended in September when United Steelworkers Local 5668 members ratified a five-year contract.

The union represents about 700 of 1,000 employees at the Jackson County plant.

Monday's decision comes after a two-day hearing last month by the panel, which was appointed by the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

The Associated Press reports that the company could appeal the panel's decision, which would send it to the Kanawha Circuit Court.



UPDATE 9/19/12 @ 11:30 p.m.
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Union members tell WSAZ.com that workers with Constellium Rolled Products have approved a new contract late Wednesday.

The contract offer includes a signing bonus increase, a 2.5 percent pay raise and reduced health care costs.

In response, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., released the following statement:

“So many people put in so much hard work to get Constellium’s workers back on the job for a fair wage, and I congratulate them on reaching this agreement today. Over the course of these challenging negotiations, my priority has been to bring the parties together, treat everyone with respect and fairness and do our best to get our talented people back to work. I am extremely pleased today to see these West Virginians and this company come together around a fair deal. Today’s agreement means that we can keep good-paying jobs and make the company successful – which will help create more even good jobs down the road. This is truly a great day for Ravenswood, Jackson County and all of West Virginia.”

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued the following statement:

"I am extremely pleased the members voted to ratify the contract this evening. I want to thank both the company and the union for their hard work in resolving the work stoppage. This deal is extremely important to Jackson County's economy, the over 1,000 workers employed by Constellium, and the entire state of West Virginia. It will be great to see the workers back at the plant soon."

Other details about the agreement haven't been released yet.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 9/15/12 @ 10 p.m.
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Union workers say they will vote on the most recent contract offered by Constellium Rolled Products early this week.

Steel workers tell WSAZ.com they have been given an unofficial extension of the company’s best and final offer. They plan on having four informational meetings to discuss the contract on Tuesday.

Members will take a vote Wednesday, according to union officials. The offer was supposed to expire at midnight Saturday.

Political leaders have urged the company and the union worker to work on reaching an agreement.

Meetings were also held Friday at the union hall where members decided they would take a vote on the contract.

Nearly 700 steelworkers have been on strike since early August.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updates.



UPDATE: 9/14/12 @ 3 p.m.
JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va.(WSAZ) -- The clock is ticking on a revised contract proposal for union members at Constellium Rolled Products in Jackson County.

The offer increases a signing bonus for workers, includes a 2.5 percent annual pay raise and reduces an original healthcare cost from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Workers have been filing through the union hall in Ravenswood Friday morning for informational meetings.

The union president tells WSAZ.com the workers are voting Friday on whether they should vote on the new contract.

Earlier this week, union officials told Constellium they would not present the contract to workers for a vote. They are not saying why.

Constellium says this offer will expire at midnight Saturday.

Another informational meeting is set up for 3:30 Friday afternoon.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 9/13/12
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (AP) -- A union official says striking workers at Constellium Rolled Products won't vote on the latest contract offer.

Constellium made the offer last week, two days after both sides met with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin in Charleston. It expires at midnight Saturday.

United Steelworkers Local 5668 unit President Nathan Nelson
says the union has notified Constellium it won't put the offer to a ratification vote. He declined to elaborate, calling it "union business."

He says the union is willing to meet again. He didn't immediately return phone messages Thursday.

Constellium spokeswoman Laura Prisc said no meetings were scheduled as of Thursday morning.

She didn't immediately comment on the union's decision not to vote on the latest offer but said a statement may be issued later.



UPDATE9/8/2012@ 11:05 p.m.
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va (WSAZ) -- It was another celebration of strength and solidarity in Ravenswood Saturday afternoon as more unions came to rally for striking steelworkers at Constellium.

Talks between the company and union members have resumed, and a new offer is on the table. Union members say they will discuss it on Monday and that they hope to reach compromise.

"We want to have a contract that is fair to the employer and fair to us so that we can get back to work and make the company money," union subdistrict director Randy Moore said. "So we can have our jobs secure for many years to come."

Government officials stepped in this week and helped facilitate communication between both sides. Representatives of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin attended the rally Saturday to show their support for resolution.

"West Virginia communities always do better when the companies are operating and the people are working," communications director Kathy Cosco said on behalf of Sen. Manchin. "He supports the folks here and believes they can come to a resolution and get back to work."

Constellium's new offer increases a signing bonus for workers, includes a 2.5 percent annual pay raise, and reduces an original healthcare cost from 10 percent to five percent.

"We look forward to getting back with the company on Monday to clarify some things, to try to fix some problems that we still have, and to hopefully move a step closer to bringing this struggle to an end," Moore said.

UPDATE 8/23/2012 @ 10:20 p.m.
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Solidarity was the word of the night in Ravenswood Thursday as steelworkers striking at the Constellium plant rallied - and were joined by several other unions.

"It's a good feeling to see all of those other unions coming together and building the solidarity here," union local president Jason Miller said. "That's what this is all about."

The West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) showed up with signs to show their support and donated $5,000 to the United Steelworkers' strike fund.

AFT vice president Judy Hale said the Constellium strike affects their union too - so that's why they joined forces.

"If steelworkers don't get back to work, they don't have jobs," she said. "They may have to move. If they move, we don't have students. So injury to one is injury to all."

They were joined by the West Virginia AFL-CIO, which ran an internal campaign for donations.

"It started out as a local food drive," secretary-treasurer Larry Matheney said. "We sent out a request for that folks show up with food, and it appears that more are going to show up than we anticipated."

Union leader Randy Moore said the event was put together quickly - and so was the response.

"That's the way it is within the family of labor," he said.

Union members told WSAZ.com they were surprised and overwhelmed by the show of support.

Representatives from Constellium declined to comment at this time.

UPDATE 8/9/2012 @ 4:30 p.m.
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The United Steelworkers union strike has turned into a campaign of violence and intimidation, according to a press release from Constellium Thursday.

Company officials say since the strike began on Sunday numerous incidents of picket line violence and misconduct have occurred.

A truck driver was attack during the strike by United Steelworkers Local 5668, Wednesday.

The driver was leaving the Ravenswood facility when someone threw a brick through the truck’s window. His eye was injuried from the shattered glass.

There also have been a number of incidents involving the use of ‘jackrocks’ and punctured tires, including those of several law enforcement vehicles, and continuous verbal threats and harassment to those entering and leaving the plant.

An estimated damage of about $3,200 has been done to three vehicles.

The Company has been working to control the violence, but those efforts have proved unsuccessful to date.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


UPDATE 8/7/2012@10:15 p.m.
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- About 700 members of the United Steelworkers union went on strike at 12:01 Sunday morning against Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood.

In a press conference Tuesday, union representatives said that although workers at Constellium are on strike, the union is not far apart from Constellium on the issues.

Union negotiator Ben Moore says one of the main concerns is health care and the union sent a message when they voted to strike.

When Constellium made its offer to the union, of the 690 eligible voting members, 624 voted, 604 voting against the company's offer and 20 voted for the offer.

Moore said the union is ready to go back to negotiating table at anytime.

"Take into consideration what we all have to lose. We all know there's nobody that wants to be out here on this strike. We all know that every minute we are out here we all lose something that can't be recuperated" Moore said.

Bob Wolford has worked at the plant for more than 18 years and says its never easy voting to strike.

"Everybody is nervous when it comes to striking, nobody wins. We're not asking...we just want to keep what we got, keep the insurance we got". Wolford said.

WSAZ.com obtained an internal union memo that broke down the terms of the contract. It says employees would have to pay about $28 per week for healthcare - adding up to a little less than $1500 per year.

It also says the raises offered by Constellium wouldn't affect all employees - just certain classes of hourly workers.



UPDATE 8/5/2012@10:15 p.m.

JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ)-- Union workers at Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood took to the picket lines early Sunday, going on strike after they say contract negotiations reached a deadlock.

They started shortly after midnight and arrived in shifts, taking turns displaying signs and soliciting public support.

"We've had a good turnout, and people have been receptive so far," union employee Jamie Wolfe said.

Workers say they didn't want to resort to a strike, but healthcare remained a huge sticking point in the new contract.

"We just want better health coverage," Wolfe said. "We want to be able to take care of our families."

Company representatives say the healthcare changes proposed are "long overdue," and that they're delayed for workers until 2014 and 2015. They also say they're offering raises for hourly employees.

Community members say the factory is the backbone of their town and that the strike affects everyone.

"I think if [workers] think it's important enough to fight for and go on strike then they should," April Baker said.

David Sobieski works as a contractor at Constellium and says he hopes the process smooths over quickly.

"They need to do something because we can't go back to work until they do," he said. "I hope they get what they want, but you know, you can't always get it."

WSAZ.com obtained an internal union memo that broke down the terms of the contract. It says employees would have to pay about $28 per week for healthcare - adding up to a little less than $1500 per year.

It also says the raises offered by Constellium wouldn't affect all employees - just certain classes of hourly workers.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for more updates as they become available.



UPDATE 8/4/12 @ 10:55 p.m.
JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Union workers at Constellium Rolled Products will strike starting at Midnight Sunday.

A union member who answered the phone at the United Steelworkers Union 5668 and tells WSAZ.com that talks broke off Saturday. The worker said it "looks likely at 12:01 am Sunday, there will be a work stoppage."

Workers will picket at the plant, and throughout Ravenswood.

We'll continue to follow this developing story, and will have the latest as it becomes available.



UPDATE 8/3/12 @ 6:55 p.m.
JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A strike is looming for workers at Constellium Rolled Products in Jackson County.

United Steel Workers had closed door meetings Friday after recently rejecting a contract offer from the company. They say their main concern is healthcare benefits.

The community has been left on edge, fearing the county's lifeblood could be at risk.

Mayor Michael Ihle is hopeful Constellium, the county's largest employer, will reach an agreement with union workers.

"If there's less business, that's a little less revenue for the city," Ihle said. "So it does make an impact that we can see."

Workers trickled in to the union hall to meet, discuss and debate and say they're prepared to picket as early as Sunday.

Meanwhile, many business owners in Ravenswood have been through this roller coaster time and time again and are fearful.

"There's been great hostility to families and friends and businesses, and we're asked to take up sides," business owner Douglas Baron said. "We don't want to take up sides, we just want it better for everybody."

Baron has been doing business for decades, but he like many wants to see a contract reached and a strike avoided. But most of all, he wants concessions by both sides to plan for the future.

"We're going to have to suck it up, it's tough times," Baron said. "There's jobs not on every corner; many people are sitting on the sidelines."

For new businesses, like Little Rascal's consignment, there are worries the doors would have to close if the plant doesn't have workers working.

"It's going to affect a lot of businesses around here. I mean, there's going to be like no money for the workers," business owner Jessica Cozart said. "They're going to have to move out of town, which our town's small enough."

Which is why one contract and nearly 700 workers are so critical to this community and the state and will set the course for years to come.

Constellium would not say if they would make another offer.

The union says it hopes the company is still willing to negotiate or else they plan to strike.



UPDATE 8/3/12 @ 12 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Constellium Rolled Products is enhancing a proposal to union workers at its Ravenswood plant after contract negotiations broke down.

The Associated Press reports the improved company offer is aimed at keeping steelworkers from going on strike.

Constellium has said its earlier offer included wage increases, one-time wage adjustments and other economic enhancements.

The company says the upgraded compensation package, which has an immediate, $7,000 ratification bonus, now totals an average of more than $30,000 per worker over the life of the five-year contract.

A United Steelworkers local official didn't immediate return a telephone message Friday.

Contract negotiations between the company and the union broke down Wednesday in Charleston and the union issued a 72-hour notice to terminate a temporary contract extension. The union represents nearly 700 workers.



UPDATE 7/28/12 @ 4:45 p.m.
JACKSON COUNTY, W. Va. (WSAZ) -- A strike may soon be on the way.

The United Steelworkers Union has voted to reject the contract offered by Constellium Rolled Products.

This comes after weeks of negotiations and talks. Now the future is uncertain for both sides.

There was a sign posted on the door of the Union’s building on Saturday that said, “the contract did not pass.”

In a press release from Constellium, they said they believed the contract was “very competitive” and they are “disappointed.”

Also, in a statement released on Saturday, Constellium CEO Kyle Lorentzen said, “as we said when we presented the offer, the proposal offered employees real economic
benefit while ensuring their families still have quality, affordable healthcare benefits. Employees are not being asked to 'give up' anything."

Lorentzen went on to say, “for a facility that has struggled and suffered significant losses in recent years, we believe this was a very competitive offer. Over the next few days, we hope to get a better sense of what caused the offer to be voted down, including whether there was some misunderstanding about the package being offered. At that point, we'll assess next steps."

On Wednesday, local Union president Jason Miller said a strike is possible.

"Nobody wants a strike but it is a possibility. It's a trickle down effect. Look what happened with Century. That was a big hit for them, the community. Same thing's going to happen here if we go on strike," said Miller.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 7/28/12 @ 2:00 p.m.
JACKSON COUNTY, W. Va. (WSAZ) -- Members of the United Steel Workers Local 5668 have decided to not accept the latest contract offer from Constellium Rolled Products.

Posted on the Union's door on Saturday was a note that read "the contract did not pass."

In a press release, Constellium CEO Kyle Lorentzen said, "For a facility that has struggled and suffered significant losses in recent years, we believe this was a very competitive offer. Over the next few days, we hope to get a better sense of what caused the offer to be voted down, including whether there was some misunderstanding about the package being offered. At that point, we'll assess next steps."

WSAZ.com will coninue to follow this developing story, and will have the latest as it becomes available.



UPDATE 7/25/12 @ 6:40 p.m.
JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Hundreds of workers in Jackson County have some big decisions to make.

A simple yes or no will decide whether they accept a new contract, but that decision could lead to a bigger question: to strike or not to strike?

Wednesday, workers at Constellium, the county's largest employer, received the information they need to make those choices.

Workers made their way into Union Local 5668, ready to hear how a new contract will impact the next five years of their lives.

Constellium, an aluminum rolling plant in Ravenswood, employs about 1,000 people. Nearly 700 of them are represented by the union.

“We had an agreement at the table that we would not take any of the stuff from there and negotiate through the media or through the press,” union local President Jason Miller said.

Union leaders can't talk about the contract, but say if the workers vote “no,” the answer on whether to strike -- could be “yes.”

“Nobody wants a strike, but it is a possibility,” Miller says.

Constellium CEO Kyle Lorentzen says the main topic is healthcare.

Under the current contract, employees make no monthly contributions. The new one would require them to pay about $10,000 during the next five years.

However, Lorentzen says in the end they would pocket about $15,000 because wage increases and bonuses would bring each worker an extra $25,000.

"This is a very reasonable offer, but we understand that change is difficult,” Lorentzen said.

If the answer is still no, the outcome could affect everyone.

“It's a trickle down effect. Look what happened with Century. That was a big hit for them, the community. Same thing's gonna happen here if we happen to go on strike,” Miller said.

Workers will vote Thursday and Friday whether to accept the new contract.

They could also vote whether to hit the picket lines.

Constellium says depending on the outcome, the company may go back to the table and reevaluate.



UPDATE 7/24/12 @ 9 a.m.
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ & AP) -- A proposed contract covering about 700 union workers at an aluminum rolling mill in Ravenswood is up for a vote this week.

United Steelworkers Local 5668 is holding informational meetings for members Wednesday on Constellium Rolled Products' contract offer. According to the union's website, four informational meetings will be held to discuss the company's "proposed Last, Best, Final Contract Offer." The steelworkers will also have a strike vote during these meetings, according to the website.

Union workers will vote on the proposed contract Thursday and Friday.

The old contract expired at midnight on July 15.

Local 5668 President Jason Miller says in a posting on the union's website that it's being extended day-to-day.

Ravenswood Mayor Michael Ihle says the city is encouraging the union and the company to agree to a deal that's fair for both sides.

The mill is Jackson County's largest employer, with about 1,000 workers.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 7/17/12
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Workers at Constellium Rolled Products, the largest employer in Jackson County, still do not have a new contract.

On Tuesday night, the United Steelworkers updated their members on the status of the negotiations at their regular meeting.

Workers told us they will have an informational picket outside the plant beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The worker's current contract at Constellium ran out at midnight Sunday, but it has been extended until midnight July 22.


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