PITTSBURGH, March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Steelworkers (USW) Union members from Local 13-836 went on strike at noon yesterday at Firestone Polymers LLC in Orange, Texas.
Both sides were able to resolve many issues, except for health care and wages. Firestone wants to make major changes in its health care offerings by shifting more of the health care costs onto the employees. It wants to change the existing PPO plan by tripling the cost of the out-of-pocket deductible for individual and family coverage and reducing the percentage it will pay of health care costs after the deductible is met.
The company has proposed a consumer-driven health care plan that has low premiums, but out-of-pocket deductibles that are six times higher than what the workers are paying today. Workers would pay more of their health care costs after the deductible is met.
Firestone also wants the union to give up its right to bargain over changes in the health care plans.
Local 13-836 members are concerned about their health care costs because they are exposed to highly hazardous chemicals and work in a dangerous environment. They are more likely to need medical care because of their workplace exposure.
The other major issue concerns wages. Firestone is offering 2 percent wages for each year of the proposed three-year contract. Workers say this would not be enough to pay for their out-of-pocket medical costs.
"The union is prepared to return to the table at the earliest opportunity so the parties can address the open issues," said Richard "Hoot" Landry, USW international staff representative. "Until then, we will remain united in our quest for a fair contract."
USW Local 13-836 represents 130 hourly employees at the specialty rubber plant.
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. The union represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, atomic energy and the service sector.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)