Picketers say they got into the picket lines after the company allegedly changed several conditions of their work without first negotiating though did not specify the changes.
United Steelworkers Sub-District 4 Director Mike O’Brien says they have taken steps to deal with the changes through the National Labor Relations Board.
“They’re unlawful and this isn’t the first [time] they’ve done that, but we finally got tired of it and filed charges against them for doing so,” says O’Brien.
Picketers also said they wanted to bring attention to ongoing contract talks between MPI and the United Steelworkers. Negotiations have been taking place for more than one year.
Union officials have said the company is “stalling” in the contract talks – something MPI has said is untrue. Company officials say there is plenty to cover in contract negotiations with the recently formed union chapter.
The United Steelworkers say they hope Monday’s picket will spur negotiators to come to a resolution. Those meetings are slated to continue on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
O’Brien says the United Steelworkers and MPI have yet to discuss “economics,” such as wage rates.
“Look, I’ve negotiated a lot of first contracts – which is what this is – and I’ve negotiated them in much shorter time frames than a year-and-a-half,” says O’Brien. “They have to understand the union is not going away here. We have a lot of support in the plant. It’s better to come to an agreement that both parties can live with and move on.”
Employees took time before and after their shifts to form lines in front of the plant in Knox on Monday. Calls to MPI were not returned on Monday.