Striking L-726 seeks support

Lodge struggles to preserve jobs and seniority rights

MEMBERS OF Local 726 (Owensboro, Ky.) entered their second month of a strike against Daramic in September. The company manufactures battery separators. The 165-member lodge struck after five months of negotiations that hung up over vague company proposals to consolidate jobs and alter seniority rights.

“This has nothing to do with economics and money; it’s all about preserving the integrity of the union,” L-726 President Jeff Campbell told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.

Daramic has proposed cross-training employees as part of a job consolidation effort, but the company has been short on details and has refused to put any specific changes in writing. Members rejected the company’s offer twice, fearing the open-ended proposal could wreak havoc on older employees and seniority.

Campbell said his local believes Daramic is being intentionally vague so that it can “weed out employees.”

International Rep David Lawrence said, “Local 726 members are highly-skilled in the operation of extruding and extracting equipment. They are an older workforce, with seniority averaging somewhere around 20-22 years. These members have concerns about how cross-training will affect safety. They are concerned also that those who are not eligible for cross-training will be laid off.”

Lawrence said the community has shown “unbelievable support” for the strikers. “Nearly everybody honks when they drive by the picket line. Other unions in the area have delivered food and drinks. This support has really helped these members endure the hardships.”

Intl. Pres. Newton B. Jones has authorized Local 726 to request support from other Boilermaker locals to help defray legal fees and other expenses incurred during the strike. Local lodge or individual contributions may be made to Local 726 Strike Relief Fund, attn: Larry Sims, L-726 Sec.-Treas., 1115 Mapleleaf Ct., Owensboro, KY 42301.