Have the employees of Teamsters Local 284 who are on strike at International Paper been terminated? Depends on who you talk to.
“We got a notice stating that,” said one striker who did not want to be identified Friday afternoon on a picket line along Pittsburgh Drive. “But legally, they can’t fire us. Our lawyers told us they can’t fire you. It’s a federal law.”
“We’re fighting the good fight,” said another unidentified striker. “Everybody’s freaking out about that letter.”
“It’s a scare tactic,” said the other striker. “They’re obviously hurting, because they want us to come back in there. They’re going to do whatever they can do to get us back in there, short of negotiating with us.”
“No employees have been terminated,” said International Paper spokeswoman Laura Clark in an email to The Gazette. “We remain hopeful for a quick end to this situation but have contingency plans in place in order to serve our customers’ needs.”
A representative from the Teamsters in Columbus did not return a call seeking comment as The Gazette went to press.
The strikers held signs that stated their grievance at the three entrances in front of 865 Pittsburgh Drive, as well as at a nearby warehouse. The signs said it wasn’t about the money. The issue was with unlimited overtime, a situation where workers could work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a total of 84 hours a week. The strikers said those are too many hours for the older workers, and prevents the younger workers from spending much time with their families.
The 130 employees make corrugated boxes in the Delaware plant, and they say their equipment is in need of repair and the working conditions are hot, dusty and stuffy.
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. After the strike began, fewer Teamsters can man the picket line, due to an injunction.
Vehicles driving along Pittsburgh Drive are honking in support of the sign-holding strikers, and the Teamsters are raising a fist in solidarity. Trucks going in and out of International get a chillier reception, but the situation remained peaceful.
According to its website, International Paper is “a global leader in the paper and packaging industry with manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and North Africa.” The company’s headquarters is in Memphis, Tennessee.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.