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Capitol cement workers strike

April 11, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Unhappy over cuts in medical insurance coverage, the use of outside contractors and other issues, about 155 union workers at Capitol Cement Corp. in Martinsburg went on strike Wednesday afternoon.

Workers at the cement plant along South Queen Street Extended went on strike at 4 p.m. after working unsuccessfully for about a year to resolve differences between themselves and management, according to Raleigh Eversole III, international representative of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

The contract between workers and the company expired May 1, 2001. Since then, the union and company officials have been operating on a month-to-month agreement, Eversole said.

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Workers have been unhappy about "outsourcing" practices, the use of nonunion, outside contractors at the plant, Eversole said. Workers are also dissatisfied about the decreased level of medical benefits and issues related to their pension, Eversole said.

"The talks have obviously broke down," said Eversole, adding that workers have decided that "enough is enough."

A company spokesman said Wednesday night he was not prepared to comment on the walkout.

Bruce Jolly, spokesman for Riverton Corp., the company that owns the plant, said company officials may have a statement by late Wednesday night or today.

On April 1, Capitol Cement workers decided they were not going to work under month-to-month agreements, Eversole said. They left the bargaining table in hopes management would consider the last offer made by the union, Eversole said. The union was notified by management last Wednesday that they would not accept the offer, Eversole said.

Workers finishing their shift at 4 p.m. started the strike and workers who were scheduled to begin work at 4 p.m. walked off their jobs, Eversole said.

Workers at the 24-hour-a-day operation were told not to leave crucial equipment operating, Eversole said. Workers were told to wait until the equipment was either properly shut down or company officials sent in a replacement worker to take over, Eversole said.

"We certainly don't want to do any damage," Eversole said.

About 20 workers picketed outside the plant Wednesday night. They held up picket signs, and some motorists passing through the intersection of South Queen Street and W.Va. 9 tooted their horns.

The Capitol Cement plant is a sprawling facility that started in the 1800s as a quarry, Eversole said. The union workers are involved in the manufacturing of cement, packaging of the product and plant maintenance, Eversole said.

Much of the cement is sold to contractors and is shipped to them by tractor-trailers.

Union officials were not sure what kind of impact the walkout had on operations at the plant Wednesday night.

Tractor-trailer drivers, who are not part of the Local D-208 union, continued to drive loads out of the plant Wednesday night.

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