On Friday, November 21 the 50 members of UE Local 279 went on strike to maintain their wages and benefits. They work for Weir Valves and Controls where they manufacture a variety of large-scale commercial valves and valves for nuclear power plants. The strike is now entering its third week.
A strike support rally will take place outside the plant on Saturday, December 13, at noon. The Weir Valves plant is located at 29 Old Right Road in Ipswich, MA.
Local 279 President Kevin McPherson said the strike was caused by the company’s effort in negotiations to increase workers’ share of health insurance premium costs. "We're not asking for much. In fact, we're really just asking to keep what we have," said McPherson, adding, "Weir's final proposal to us is going to lead to an effective pay cut, once you factor in the increased health insurance contributions and the inflation rates over the last three years of our prior contract. It's about a $1.75 an hour cut for most of our members."
Chief Steward Jason Gallant said, "For over the last two years we've been bending over backwards for this company and now they're treating us like dirt. They're even demanding we allow favoritism to govern overtime distribution, not making sure everyone gets a fair shot at it like now." Gallant continued, "A million dollars worth of product comes out of this facility each day and now they want to cheat us out of a few thousand. It's peanuts for them but very important for us to provide for our families. It's like spitting in our face."
Workers on the daily picket lines have been in good spirits, hopeful for a resolution with the company, and managed to keep busy. One UE member even went to assist in a fire rescue operation at a nearby home Friday. McPherson explained, "One of our guys left the picket line to go around the corner and help rescue a woman and child in a house fire. We've got a good group of guys here who want to help their community. We'd like to think that fighting to maintain good employment standards in the area is a part of that."