RAVENSWOOD - Local, state and federal leaders are hoping the striking workers at Constellium Rolled Products will be able to make a decision this week on an offer from the company to determine whether to end the strike and go back to work.
Members of Local 5668 are scheduled to vote by secret ballot on Wednesday on whether to accept the company's latest contract offer. Informational meetings, for union members only, will be held today at 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the union hall at 52 Nu-Chance Drive in Ravenswood.
Voting on Wednesday will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the union hall.
Around 700 union members have been on strike since Aug. 5.
The latest contract offer was made by Constellium on Sept. 7, after both sides met in Charleston with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
The company extended its final offer through Wednesday, Sept. 19, to accommodate a ratification vote by union members, company officials said Monday.
The company's final offer provides employees with a $7,500 ratification bonus, 2.5 percent wage increases in each year of the contract, and other economic benefits. The offer includes a 95/5 health care plan that pays for 95 percent of covered health care costs.
Employees will not pay for health care premiums until 2017, and then at rates that are significantly less than half of the national average $17.31 a week for family coverage, company officials said.
Ravenswood Mayor Michael Ihle said things were quiet Monday in regard to the proposed contract.
''I sense some nervous anticipation and a cautious optimism that one way or another, all involved will reach a mutually beneficial resolution soon,'' he said. ''I am encouraged and relieved the negotiating committee has restored union workers with the right to vote via secret ballot on their families' futures.
''I trust the vote will be conducted in a fair and impartial way, and that each voter will make an informed decision in the best interest of his family. I look forward to the moment when all parties agree to a fair and mutually beneficial deal.''
Tomblin said Monday he was committed to continuing to work with both parties to bring this work stoppage to a conclusion.
''I encourage international and local union leaders to continue to educate and inform their members about the offer on the table,'' the governor said. ''At the end of the day, it is up to the members to determine whether to accept the current offer. I hope each member carefully weighs this offer and what is in the best interest of themselves and their families.
''To that end, I encourage the full membership to take an up or down vote on it. I hope that everyone involved understands the hardships this has caused families in the Ravenswood community, and that jobs and economic security are first and foremost on everyone's minds over these next few days."
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the negotiations in Ravenswood are deeply important to the workers, their families, and the whole community.
''I have been engaged with all parties regarding the ongoing negotiations and I have listened to the concerns and hopes of all involved,'' he said. ''In the end, I think it is essential for all of the members to have an opportunity to vote up or down on the company's latest proposal.
''I am hopeful that an agreement can be reached sooner rather than later and think that a vote on the contract - regardless of whether the members decide to ratify it - is necessary to move us toward a resolution."
Manchin has said his priority throughout these negotiations has been to bring the parties together, treat everyone with respect and fairness and do their best to get these people back to work.
A point in these negotiations has been reached where the international leadership of the United Steelworkers union has reviewed this offer and USW President Leo Gerard sees market conditions around the world, and his assessment is that it's time for workers to have a vote, Manchin said.
"I agree that a vote is the next crucial step, and I strongly urge the union leaders to reconsider yesterday's decision,'' he said. ''I sincerely ask my fellow West Virginians to give their brothers and sisters a chance to evaluate this offer on their own."