Saratoga County

Momentive deal reached in wake of strike

Twenty-six employees had been fired
Momentive workers on strike stay warm near the burn barrel and read over contract offer, Feb. 14, 2017.
Momentive workers on strike stay warm near the burn barrel and read over contract offer, Feb. 14, 2017.

When Momentive Performance Materials officials and union leaders reached a deal in February that returned nearly 700 factory employees to work, Dom Patrignani refused to celebrate. 

Twenty-six union workers fired during the grueling 105-day strike were still without jobs. 

“We could not declare any sort of victory whatsoever in this contract with 26 victims left behind,” said Patrignani, president of IUE-CWA Local 81359. 

On Thursday night, the company and union leaders announced they had reached a deal allowing 25 workers terminated during the strike to either return to work, retire or take buyouts. That left one employee still jobless; he is seeking an arbitration hearing so he too can get his job back.

“I’m not smiling yet until everybody’s back,” Patrignani said. “We’re not stopping at all — we’re going full speed forward to finish the job.”

Ever since employees went back to work in the days after a contract was ratified on Feb. 14, the absence of the 26 fired workers has fueled tensions inside the plant on routes 4 and 32. The workers were fired for either misconduct on the picket lines or alleged sabotage inside the plant before the strike began on Nov 2. Union members rallied around them, holding fundraisers and wearing stickers featuring the number 26 on their hard hats as well as wristbands.

That prompted officials to implement a new policy banning stickers and wristbands, but union members persisted.

“They were discipling people, and a couple people took it upon themselves to have it shaved into their head,” Patrignani said.  

Of the 26 fired workers, 16 will start back up on Monday. Five workers agreed to retire and four others took buyouts.

Tina Reiber, a Momentive spokeswoman, said in a prepared statement the deal followed a “thorough internal investigation regarding inappropriate behavior” that took place on the picket lines.

“We look forward to continuing to work with all of our employees, including our union represented members, as we remain focused on building a stronger Momentive,” she said. 

Patrignani said he, CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor and other union leaders met with human resources managers at Momentive for three days this week and “worked feverishly” to come to an agreement. 

“We graciously thank all the parties involved including elected officials that worked behind the scenes to help get this process moving quickly and to help get the fate of our 26 to conclusion and closure,” he said in a prepared statement. “CWA District 1 and Local 81359 Leadership and its members continue to commit every effort to finalize this matter with our one remaining member as we await an arbitration date.”

Workers at the plant represented by IUE-CWA Locals 81359 and 8130 went on strike in the fall to protest cuts to health care benefits and wages, as well as frozen pensions. The strike ended more than three months later when a majority of workers voted to ratify a contract that included 2 percent raises and protected a matching retirement fund the company had wanted to cut.

Categories: -News-, Business, Schenectady County

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