Motorists driving along Pittsburgh Drive recently may have noticed a smaller picket line in front of International Paper.
“They filed an injunction against us to limit people out here,” said a member of Teamsters Local Union 284. (The Teamsters said they can’t be identified.) “We’ve got a limit of three people at each gate. Basically, it’s a restraining order. We kind of expected that — it’s what companies do in defense of this.”
The strike at the plant is now in its second week, after 10 months of negotiations failed to find a resolution. Teamsters said that since the strike, a mediator has been unsuccessful in getting International to talk.
Another Teamster said the 84-page injunction went into effect in one day. They said company officials have frequently called police if the strikers venture away from their designated areas.
“The company is very arrogant on negotiations — it’s their way, or that’s why we’re out here,” a Teamster said. “They say we’re losing customers, and it’s not good for them, but they’re so arrogant they won’t back off and talk to us.”
“We remain committed to working with union representatives in hopes that we can reach an agreement as soon as possible,” said Laura G. Clark, business communications manager for International Paper, in an email.
Although there were fewer pickets, they were still getting support — vehicles driving by frequently honked, prompting raised fists of union solidarity in return.
“We’ve got all kinds of unions from different companies bringing us food and drinks,” a Teamster said.
The main sticking point, the Teamsters said, is a company policy that requires them to work up to 84 hours in a week. They said employees at other International plants in Marion, Mount Vernon and Newark are being overworked.
“There’s some people in here that are a couple of years from retirement — there’s no way they can pull 84 hours in a week,” a Teamster said. “I want to be able to see my kids grow. So we’re here for our families.”
“It’s amazing to me how many people think this is about money,” said another Teamster. “We get paid good money. This has to do with the work hours. We all want to spend time with our families.”
The Teamsters also said the machines used at the facility to make corrugated boxes are in bad condition.
“They won’t fix the machines,” a Teamster said. “We don’t feel safe in there working 84 hours a week — over 100 degrees year-round, 12 hours a day. We have vacuum blowers that suck out a lot of the fresh air. It’s hot, dusty and no good air.”
The Pittsburgh Drive plant remains open with replacement workers, but the Teamsters say four trucks of finished product are now leaving each day, compared to the 25 trucks a day when they were working.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.