WHEN TROUBLES CALL AND YOUR BACKS TO THE WALL - High Hopes In The Kanawha Valley

(04/01/2006)

"When troubles call and your back's to the wall,
There a lot to be learned, that wall could fall ...
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant." - from "High Hopes"

"Government unemployment numbers are glowing, looking better and better toward full employment. Shortly, in the Kanawha Valley, all 500 jobs will be filled. WalMart workers are getting new benefits when they shop at other WalMarts, a 10% discount. - Hur Herald

OPINION AND COMMENT By Bob Weaver

It was a second major blow to workers in the Kanawha Valley.

Following the the projected loss of 350 Dow Chemical employees in the Kanawha Valley, the Union Partners stamping plant and its 344 hourly and salaried employees is likely history.

A majority of union members at the Union Partners stamping plant in South Charleston voted not to open their contract yesterday.

The workers were facing cuts in vacation, pay, holiday time and retirement and an increase in their health insurance and prescription drug payment contributions.

The average worker at the 84-year-old stamping plant earned an average hourly employee wage of $17.21 an hour, or $35,796 a year.

The total cut, both to the employees’ paychecks and added out-of-pocket expenses, would total about $16,800 a year per employee, the paycheck cut nearly in half.

The company is suffering from competition in the globalized market, making stampings and assemblies for automobile and truck manufacturers.

The workers voted yesterday 253-35 not to take the cuts.

The average worker had been employed for 20 years.

Earlier this month company officials told the union it needs employees to make $3.6 million in concessions because it’s losing money.

The union said they thought the concessions are an odd request, considering the company recently nailed down an $18 million long-term contract with Volvo and received another contract to do assembly and press room work, worth $11 million to $14 million.

The company said either the workers accept the proposal or the plant closes down.

Over 40,000 jobs left WV, mostly to foreign countries, including most of the state's lowest paying production jobs, like garments and shoes.

West Virginia steel, once the state's largest industry, has been shifted abroad, mostly to China.

Dow Chemical jobs were on the high end, paying $50,000 to $100,000 annually.


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