Union workers vote unanimously to strike after contract dispute

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GREENUP COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Union workers at HarbisonWalker International have laid down their tools after voting to strike.

More than 100 workers are on strike after voting Monday to walk out on the South Shore plant.

According to the local union president, the contract expired in March but negotiations have stalled.

The plant manufactures a refractory product for steel mills and glass factories.

The length of a union contract averages 3 to 5 years. This last contract was a four year deal.

Union President Craig Hunt says the union hasn't voted to strike at this plant since the 1970s, but that today's unanimous decision is what was needed.

The main union sticking points are pensions, benefits and starting pay.

"We are here to fight for our jobs and it's going to be a fight for our jobs. It's a job that supports this community and I would think we will have the backing of the community," said Mike Diller who has worked at the plant for over 30 years.

HarbisonWalker released a statement on the strike, saying in part:

"We remain committed to reaching a new contract with the United Steelworkers Union. Ultimately however, the company must meet its customers' product needs so that it can continue offering good jobs and competitive compensation to all employees. We have implemented a contingency plan, in full compliance with all labor laws, in order to fulfill current orders during the USW's work stoppage, and we will do so at the same level of excellence that all our customers have come to expect."