RAVENSWOOD - Striking Constellium workers in Ravenswood are committed to continuing negotiations toward a new contract, union officials said Tuesday.
Representatives from the United Steelworkers Local 5668 held a press conference to lay out their intentions in regard to the strike started Sunday by 700 union members at Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood.
The company and union representatives have been in contract talks since May, but could not come to an agreement.
"We are confident that we can still work together and reach a new agreement that is fair to both sides," said USW negotiator Randy Moore. "We are willing to compromise, but that must not mean that the workers are the only ones who give, and that is what would happen under the company's plan. We are not asking for anything new; all we are asking for is to hold on to what we have."
A federal mediator brought the two sides back to the bargaining table Saturday, but the company rejected the union's most recent settlement offer, union officials said.
The strike began as of 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
"A decision like this is always a last resort, but sometimes it is the only way to show the company that we demand to be treated fairly," said USW District 8 Director Billy Thompson. "We hope that the company will sit down with us and work out a fair deal for everyone involved - one that helps them stay competitive without pushing more hard-working people into a race to the bottom."
On Friday, the union filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging the company has bargained in bad faith and has encouraged workers to resign their USW membership and cross the union picket line.
The union is objecting to changes the company wants to make to health care coverage that will significantly increase costs to employees and their families. The changes could more than wipe out any wage increases the company has proposed, the union says. Workers at Constellium earn an average of about $19 an hour.
"All we ask for is the ability to take care of our families," USW Local 5668 President Jason Miller said. "This community needs good jobs with decent benefits, and that's what we're fighting for."
The company said it would have a statement today on the union's stances.