Shared from the 2016-12-02 The Daily Gazette eEdition

Momentive strike continuing into second month

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TOM MCBRIDE/GAZETTE COPY EDITOR

Members of Local 81359 picket outside Momentive in Waterford after going out on strike at noon Nov. 2.

WATERFORD — Momentive Performance Materials workers who went on strike Nov. 2 remained on the picket line in Waterford throughout the holiday weekend and into the last days of November.

Workers walked out after several months of negotiations between union representatives and the company, which began in June, failed to result in a contract. About 700 workers employed by Momentive in Waterford spent Thanksgiving day together picketing according to the IUE-CWA Local 82359 President Dom Patrignani.

“We had turkeys cooking from morning to night,” he said. The Mechanicville Food Pantry donated the turkeys.

“We’ve taken two concessionary contracts already,” said Patrignani. “We were not going to take a third. The business is doing well.”

Earlier this month, Momentive workers received letters urging them to enroll in health coverage under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. According to the Department of Labor, COBRA “gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events.”

The letter stated that benefits and employment were terminated at the end of November, according to Patrignani. Another letter was sent a week later by Momentive, right before Thanksgiving, clarifying that while benefits may be terminated, workers are classified as taking a leave of absence rather than terminated. “They misclassified us,” said Patrignani.

On the first day of the strike, John Ryan, who has worked at the site for 26 years, said: “They just brought replacement workers in. It shows how very little they care about the community of Waterford and the workers.”

The key issues those on strike are concerned about are health care and retirement benefits. According to the New York State AFL-CIO, Momentive’s most recent offer “would drastically raise workers’ health care costs and eliminate all retirement benefits for future retirees.”

“We just want to come to work, do our jobs, and be able to go to the doctor and live our lives,” shop steward Kellie Rossner said in a statement on the union’s website.

“We have reached out on numerous occasions to get back to the table and we’re getting no response,” said Patrignani.

Tina Reiber, a spokeswoman for Momentive, emphasized the company’s commitment to safety and the importance of properly training new workers. Reiber said, “We respect the rights of our striking workers to express their opinions. As has been the case throughout this process, the company is open to engaging in good faith negotiations with the union bargaining team.”

Despite the increasingly cold weather, Patrignani said “we still have people out there 24/7 picketing.”

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