450 Steelworkers strike at West Virginia plant

By Amy Husk
November 15, 2021

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Some 450 members of United Steelworkers Local 40 have been on strike against Special Metals Corp. here for over a month. The company, which is owned by Warren Buffet’s massive Berkshire Hathaway worldwide operation, is a producer of nickel alloys used in auto parts, household appliances and industrial equipment.

Workers walked out Oct. 1 when contract negotiations broke down. USW Local 40 President Chad Thompson told the Militant  that the company’s demands included a substantial raise in health care premiums — “four times what we pay now” — and no pay raises at all. Negotiations resumed Nov. 3.

“We have so many issues to work through,” Thompson said. “Wages, health insurance, safety and seniority are all issues we still don’t have agreement on.”

Thompson, a maintenance worker in the plant, said strikers have gotten a lot of support from other unions and the community. “UPS workers and firefighters have come by and dropped off donations. We’ve also gotten support from the teachers union, workers from our sister plant in Burnaugh, Kentucky, and the Marathon plant in Ashland. We appreciate all the support.”

I visited the union hall on Buffington Street along with union supporters from Cincinnati, including Dave Perry, a shop steward for Teamsters Local 100 at a factory run by the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. “We start negotiations at our workplace tomorrow,” Perry told strikers at the union hall. “I’m here to support your fight because we are all facing the same attacks.”

“We’re the ones who do all the work and they want to take all the money,” striker Scott Wilks said on the picket line. “Back in 2007 this company had 700 workers, now it’s down to 450. They lay people off and expect us to pick up the slack. A lot of the equipment in the plant is old and unsafe.”

“If we take anything less than what we already have, we’re compromising. And we’re not willing to do that,” striker Jeremy Blankenship said.

Special Metals bosses are trying to run the plant with replacement workers. “They hire them from an anti-union outfit that specializes in hiring during labor disputes,” Wilks said.

Messages of support for the USW strikers can be emailed to Chad Thompson at CSThompson7777@gmail.com. Checks can be made out to USW Local 40, earmarked for the strike fund, and sent to Thompson at 421 Cherry Ridge Road, Thurman, OH 45685.