Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pacific Steel Workers on Strike

By Judith Scherr
Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Some 400 steel workers at Pacific Steel have traded in their hard hats for picket signs. claiming their bosses are unfair.

“We’re asking for a 40 cent per hour wage increase. They don’t want to give us that,” said Manual Duarte, who was picketing on Tuesday in front of one of the gates leading to a plant warehouse of Fifth Street near Gilman in West Berkeley.

Workers are also at odds with the company over medical benefits. The company pays 80 percent — “but they put in a clause of a max of $877” the company would pay, Duarte said. The old contract between the Glass Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International and Pacific Steel Management expired on Sunday.

Duarte repairs machinery at the factory. He’s worked there for 13 years and earns $22.77 per hour and says that’s a lot less than others with comparable skills make elsewhere.

Pacific Steel management spokesperson Elisabeth Jewel, of Aroner, Jewel & Ellis Partners wasn't talking: “We’re not commenting,” she said. “We’re going to the bargaining table and do it there.”

Workers said they were picketing in front of the gate to prevent trucks coming to the warehouse from picking up materials. They said Berkeley Police had facilitated trucks crossing the line on Monday.

They said they thought the drivers were independent and not Teamsters — who, they said, would not have crossed the picket line.

Police officers on duty declined to respond to questions about their role and referred the Express to the public information officer, who was not available.

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