Cement truck drivers at the Cranesville Block Co. plant in Glenville and Albany went on strike Wednesday.
Among their demands are a reduction in what they pay toward company-provided health care and changes to the company’s pension program.
Cranesville Block Co. Inc. is owned and operated by John Tesiero and his family. The company, according to its website, currently operates 24 ready-mix cement facilities, 10 aggregate facilities that supply stone used in the mixing of cement, and six masonry retail stores and properties in the Capital Region. The Albany and Glenville plants are both ready-mix facilities.
The strike has already halted work at two Schenectady construction sites.
Six employees from the Glenville plant took up position at the front gate at 6:30 Wednesday morning. All were members of the Teamsters Local 294. William Latulipe said he has been with the company for 29 years, and the practice of making employees pay for health insurance while also cutting their pension was something he could no longer stand, especially given the profitability of the company.
“We don’t want to strike, but what is right is right,” said Rod Zych, another Cranesville Block employee.
Latulipe said that in addition to making employees pay for 20 percent of their health insurance, the company has made changes to the pension system. Employees earn a pension based on the number of hours they work, but the company has capped the number of hours that go toward pensions at 2,080 per year. Latulipe said most drivers with the company work well over that cap, noting that he usually hits 2,080 hours in August. That means that despite continuing to work, he receives nothing toward his pension.
“We are just looking for a fair package,” Latulipe said.
Members of the union who were picketing the Glenville plant also claimed the company had breached the union contract by forcing employees to work nights. Cranesville Block owner John Tesiero called the claim “ludicrous.”
Jeff Mason has been a Cranesville Block employee for about a year. He said new employees at the company are paid a trainee’s wage for the first two years. Whereas the wage of a full employee is $21.57, a new employee earns around $14 an hour until the start of his third year with the company. Mason said that despite being paid less, he is doing the same work as every other driver. He said that with a young family, that creates a financial strain.
“I am just trying to make ends meet,” he said.
Several of the employees at the Glenville plant said they felt the company didn’t appreciate the work they do. Mason said he feels the company doesn’t understand the responsibility that falls on the drivers’ shoulders.
“One wrong move and you are going to kill someone,” he said. “We need to be compensated for the responsibility that we have behind the wheel.”
Latulipe added that most of the drivers at Cranesville Block have years of experience, something they take pride in. “We are trained professionals. We take pride in what we do,” he said.
Latulipe said many of the employees at the Glenville and Albany plants were considering leaving Cranesville Block for local companies with better contracts. He said he is nearing retirement and needs to build up his pension, something he feels he can’t do now.
Cranesville Block is currently in negotiations with the Teamsters union. Until a deal is reached, the strike will continue.
“They have a very fair offer at the table and right now we are at an impasse,” Tesiero said, but he declined to elaborate as negotiations are ongoing.
Latulipe said the group plans to stay on strike as long as it takes to get what they feel they deserve.
“We are dug in. We are not going to move an inch,” Latulipe said. “We are in for the long haul.”
In 2010, Cranesville Block was fined over $500,000 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA found in its inspection blocked exits, workers lacking safety glasses and gloves while working with acid, unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals, unmarked electrical equipment, exposed live electrical parts and moisture in electrical equipment in various plants owned by Cranesville Block. Between 2000 and 2010 the company was cited for 188 violations, according to the federal Department of Labor.
The current strike is not related to those issues.