SOUTH SHORE, Ky. — United Steel Workers Union (USW) Local 133 are refuting information contained in an open letter by their employer, Harbison Walker International (HWI) in South Shore, Ky. The letter is a paid advertisement by HWI published in the Nov. 16, 2016, edition of The Daily Times.
110 USW union workers at the HWI plant site in South Shore, Ky. initiated a strike against the company on Oct. 10, 2016, which is still in progress. Craig Hunt, president of the USW Local 133, said HWI’s letter infuriated USW Local 133 members because it does not reflect the truth about the wages, pension and retirement benefits, and healthcare benefits of USW Local 133.
“The ad that was put into the paper upset a lot of people, because the numbers they (HWI) put in their exaggerated quite a bit,” Hunt said. “We don’t make near as much money as the company claims we do. If you do make that kind of money, you’ve got to work six, seven days a week, or holidays, sacrifice time at home. So, a lot of people are upset about it.”
Hunt said he is currently working in conjunction with the Steel Worker’s International to formulate a response to HWI’s publication in The Daily Times.
“They (HWI) may be hurting themselves by putting that kind of stuff in the paper,” Hunt said. “If you read some of that stuff that they put in there, it almost sounds as if you live in Greenup County you don’t deserve as much pay as someone else.”
USW is relentless in their efforts to be heard by HWI.
“We still have the picket lines set up at the gates. We’ve got pickets at both gates, and we man the picket line 24, seven,” Hunt said. “We have worked out a schedule where we have three or four people or more at each gate. It is just a peaceful picket, just trying to get back to the table and get a fair contract. We have a Federal mediator involved in our negotiations, and we have talked to the Federal mediator and agreed on some dates that we would agree to get back to the table, and he was supposed to contact the company. I know the company claims on Facebook and in the paper, they claim they are ready and willing to get back to the table, but as far as I know they have been non-responsive as far as getting some dates set. So, I don’t know if they are just playing games or what.”
USW Local 133 desires to maintain the wages and benefits that they have, according to Hunt.
“At this point, we are just trying to keep what we currently have, and the company has stated at the negotiating table several times, that they are not claiming the inability to pay, they just don’t want to,” Hunt said. “I spoke with Don Abrino, he’s a salesman for HWI, just last week, he’s not part of the negotiating team for the company, but he told me himself, that the company has recently recorded record sells. I can quote him, he (Abrino) said, “We’ve recently recorded record sells.” ” So the cuts that they are trying to make on the workers out here are just not justified,”Hunt said.
Hunt said the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming.
“Our Union really appreciates all of the support from our community. I can’t put into words how much we appreciate everything the community is doing,” Hunt said. “From local businesses, to the schools, churches, it is unbelievable the support that we are getting.”
Gathered at the HWI gate along with other USW Local 133 members, Robert French, told The Daily Times that HWI perverted the truth in the published letter.
“The problem that we have with the statement is that the company is telling half-truths. They tell the part that they want the community to hear,” French said. “What they are trying to do is turn this community against us, but we have phenomenal support from the community right now. This community is great, and we love it. The are putting tactics out there to try to make us look as if we are greedy, that’s our feelings and we are not one bit happy about that.”
French said their requests of HWI are not unreasonable, and they will continue to protest for what they believe they are entitled to.
“We are not asking for a whole lot. In years past we have fought, and fought. We’ve given up wages for our insurance, and now they just want to take all of this insurance away from us,” French said. “It’s like, we’ve given this stuff up in year’s past, and now they want to take all of this away from us. We have great support, and we are in this for the long haul.”
Reach Portia Williams at 740-464-3862, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.