The “keep out” signs posted at both entrances to Momentive Performance Materials CEO Jack Boss’ Saratoga Springs driveway may have been unnecessary.
About 50 on-strike workers at the Waterford chemical factory boarded a bus Monday and brought their strike efforts to Boss’ Saddle Brook Drive neighborhood, but it wasn’t Boss they were looking to reach — at least not directly. They were there to talk to his neighbors and hand them fliers reading, “JACK BOSS IS DESTROYING GOOD JOBS.”
“No, he doesn’t need a pamphlet,” said Craig Finigan, a logistics operator for Building 71 who lives in Mechanicville. “He’s not listening to the workers that have been outside for 80 days, so we thought maybe he’d listen to the people he lives amongst. These are his peers.”
Early on in the petitioning effort, which started at around 5:30 p.m., Finigan was met with resistance from a neighbor who was passing through and had rolled down his window. When Finigan told the curious man why they were in his neighborhood, along with a Saratoga Springs police presence, he said the man got upset and asked, “In a neighborhood, with kids?”
“He went into how labor unions destroyed upstate New York’s labor in the ’70s, and he was ready to give us a life lesson on unions, and somebody came up and took his picture and he got really [upset],” Finigan said. ”He started cranking on the e-break, and he got out of the car and charged up on our guy here, and the Saratoga police were already on their way down the driveway at that point.
“That escalated quickly,” he added. “I just wanted to give him a flier.”
The workers, who are members of IUE-CWA Locals 81359 and 8130, have been on strike since Nov. 2, citing reduced health care benefits and frozen pensions among their reasons for the protest. Momentive was General Electric’s Silicones division before GE spun it off to private equity firms in 2006.
Tina Reiber, a Momentive spokeswoman, said the company is focused on “continuing the safe and efficient operations of our plant and ensuring the safety of our employees and the community.”
“While we respect the rights of our striking union employees, our position has been and continues to be that a strike benefits no one, and we remain committed to reaching an agreement with the union,” she said.
Momentive and union officials were scheduled to resume contract negotiations with the assistance of a federal mediator on Jan. 10, but those negotiations fell through.
“[The] union presented a proposal that puts us significantly further apart than their previous offer, which two out of the three local unions voted to ratify,” Reiber said. “Therefore, we were unable to accept the offer, and rather than continue our discussions that began on the 10th, the union chose to leave a day early.”
Union officials said it differently in a news release, saying the proposal offered by workers would have saved the company “millions of dollars in health care costs.”
“The company refused to negotiate,” union officials said.
Momentive representatives also responded Monday to a report called Hedge Papers No. 42 released by hedge-fund watchdog group Hedge Clippers.
The report claimed that hedge-fund managers Leon Black of The Apollo Group and Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group and President Donald Trump’s economic adviser, intentionally saddled the Waterford chemical plant with $3 billion in debt while profiting an estimated $642 million from fees, according to a news release shared by union officials.
“Because of Schwarzman’s role in helping President Donald Trump create good jobs, national labor leaders called on him to step in and protect middle-class jobs in Upstate New York by settling the strike,” the release states. “Nearly 40,000 people have taken the time to learn about the strike, and have signed a petition supporting the men and women fighting for good jobs.”
Reiber, of Momentive, said the chemical plant’s shareholders are not involved in labor matters.
“Momentive does not pay any management fees to Apollo,” she added. “Apollo does not control Momentive and is one of many common equity shareholders in Momentive.”