‘We just want a fair contract’: AdvanSix workers on strike over wage negotiations
HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Dozens of honking cars pass by AdvanSix workers picketing on East Randolph Road in Hopewell on Monday.
Workers held signs that read “On strike” and “Record profits but zero percent raise.”
AdvanSix workers are on strike over wage negotiations in their contracts.
“We just want a fair contract,” union representative James Baugus said.
Baugus says the company proposed raises for only about half its workforce. He says Advansix negotiated a wage adjustment for only 51% of workers in their first year. 49% of workers would receive a 0% wage increase in their first year.
Baugus accuses the company of trying to divide their membership.
“We are all one bargaining unit,” Baugus said. “They’re making record profits, stated in their own letters and they don’t want to share that,” Baugus said.
Advansix CEO and President Erin Kane released a statement last Friday saying in part:
“AdvanSix proposed a new labor agreement that is fair and competitive in the market and equitable for our employees. The proposed terms offer a market-based, role-specific wage approach designed to ensure we are providing competitive wages to our valued employees while ensuring long-term, sustainable growth.
While we bargained in good faith with the unions, we have taken substantial contingency measures and are well prepared to support safe, stable and sustainable operations and continue delivering for our customers while our Hopewell South workers are on strike. AdvanSix is committed to doing its part to help reach a resolution to this situation and calls on the union to do the same.”
The union workers want a pay increase due to record-high inflation costs and to support their families.
Chemical plant workers like Justin Ozmore say he works 18-hour shifts back-to-back some weeks, and now Ozmore is expecting a baby boy in eleven days.
With currently no pay, Ozmore says he’s just trying to make ends meet.
“I’m just trying to pick up any odd-end jobs I can. Building picnic tables, building decks,” Ozmore said.
The union also says AdvanSix abruptly cut off health insurance for workers this past weekend.
“I’ve been paying for health insurance with this company every week. It comes out of my paycheck. I expect health insurance. Now it’s pulled right out from underneath my feet, and I didn’t even know it. There was no warning,” worker Kevin Frank said.
This all comes as the chemical plant is also facing action from state and federal environmental agencies.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the plant has been flagged 66 times in the past eight years for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
Hopewell Interim City Manager Dr. Concetta Manker released a statement addressing the violations on Friday, saying air quality is something the city takes very seriously and is working closely with different agencies.
“Our citizens deserve and demand a city that is free from pollution,” Manker said. The air quality in Hopewell is a subject the city takes very seriously.”
“It’s a dangerous chemical plant. There are things in here that will hurt you,” Bauges said.
Moving forward, Baugus says both parties could potentially meet by the end of this week about contract negotiations, but a meeting has not been officially scheduled.
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