HUBBARD Workers strike at Metalcrafts; talks planned

The contract extension expired Sept. 7, a worker said.
HUBBARD -- Ron McCombs says he and his co-workers only want what others get.
"[Management wants] merit raises, and we want cost-of-living raises," the Hubbard man said of the situation at Metalcrafts Inc. on North Main Street. "We just want what everybody else in the Valley gets."
The four employees of Metalcrafts, members of the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers Local 527 of Pittsburgh, went on strike Monday. They stood in front of the building, holding strike signs, and listening to passing motorists honk their horns in support. The employees' contract with the company, which makes ornamental metal pieces for stairs, railings and more, expired Saturday.
"Our contract expired July 31, but we got an extension until Sept. 7," McCombs said. "We had one talk on Sept. 4 that yielded nothing."
Both sides are willing to continue talks, and are planning to continue meeting even this week.
Seeking increases
The workers said they are asking for cost-of-living increases as opposed to merit raises because they feel merit raises are too arbitrary.
"There are no boundaries to them," said David Pettitt of Sharon, Pa. "It's all in their noodle."
The employees said they agreed to the merit raises in their last contract, and that evaluations were scheduled to take place every six months for the past three years. But it didn't work, they said, adding some people never received evaluations.
The workers also said they have suffered cuts in benefits, including medical coverage, and that their dental and optical plans have been cut by the union altogether.
Manager Rick Evans of North Jackson said he has offered to put the union employees on the same health-care coverage plan the office personnel use.
"We have two different insurances here," he said. At one time, all Metalcrafts employees were on insurance plans through Local 527, but some time ago, the union stopped covering the nonunion employees. The plan office personnel are on, Evans said, offers dental coverage, and is cheaper than what the union is making the workers pay.
If union workers went with the other insurance plan, they would not have to pay for the coverage, which would save them "a substantial amount of money," he said.
As for merit raises, Evans said he is willing to continue those, noting some employees deserve higher raises than others.
"We are based on productivity here," he said.
McCombs said he really had nothing bad to say about the management of Metalcrafts, saying employees receive bonuses at Christmas and other perks throughout the year. But when his bills increase, and his salary doesn't, there's a problem, he said.
"We are not asking for anything ridiculous," he said. "But I got guys who are working two jobs just to keep bread on the table. That's not right."

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