Cumberland Times-News

Local News

August 16, 2010

ATK union workers strike

Company, employees clash over benefits package offered in contract proposal

— ROCKET CENTER, W.Va. — About 700 union workers from Alliant Techsystems Inc. were on strike Monday, after rejecting the company’s last offer of terms for a new contract.

Contract negotiations have been under way for about three weeks, according to Ron Moore, a representative for the International Chemical Workers Union Council of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

But the company and workers from Local No. 261-C were unable to reach an agreement before the previous contract expired at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Moore said.

By 8 a.m. Monday, hundreds of strikers lined the roadway at the intersection of state Route 956 and U.S. Route 220 and near the entrance to the Rocket Center plant.

Many brandished signs bearing slogans like “We’re Being Robbed by a Fortune 500 Company” and “We Support the Troops, Now Support Us.”

The numbers dwindled by early afternoon, but picketing will continue around the clock in shifts until the conflict is resolved, according to Local No. 261 President Herb Crawford.

“In the middle of the day we’re cutting the numbers down because of the heat,” Crawford said.

Strikers at the scene said they believed the picketing effort was going well and they were getting a good response from passers-by.

The union’s main objection is to the benefits package offered in the new contract, Moore said, though he declined to provide more details because “negotiations are still ongoing.”

Gary Geiger, communications manager for ATK’s missile products group, said the strikers represent slightly less than half of the facility’s work force, but work will continue at the plant.

“We’re going to continue operations with the people we have on-site,” Geiger said.

Geiger, who has not been involved in the negotiation process, said the company hopes to resolve the issue “in short order.”

“We plan to continue negotiations until we can get the contract resolved,” he said.

But there were no talks Monday, according to Crawford, who said he had no idea when the process would resume.

Alliant produces explosives and rocket propellants for the Defense Department. The plant employs about 1,400.

Contact Megan Miller at mmiller@times-news.com.

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