News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 22, 2009

Union workers, Bemis offering no indication of progress

TERRE HAUTE — For the first time in more than 20 years, striking workers took their place along a picket line Wednesday outside the Bemis manufacturing plant on Terre Haute’s east side.

The strike began late Tuesday. Members of Workers Unite Here Local 1426 had earlier rejected Bemis’ latest contract offer.

There was no indication from either side that any progress was made toward resolving the dispute on Wednesday.

Despite the strike, Bemis Co. spokeswoman Kristi Pavletich said the company’s customers will remain served.

“I can’t comment on our contingency plans, but we do have contingency plans in place and are moving forward,” she said when asked if temporary workers had been bused in or if salaried employees were on the floor.

When asked if the company has any timeline in sight for a possible resolution, Pavletich said, “I have no idea.”

About 25 union members lined Fruitridge Avenue in front of the plant, holding signs and placards communicating their complaints.

Workers declined to comment on the record as a matter of union policy, but said their major complaints with the company’s proposal hinge on the use of temporary workers, potential plant shut-downs and health benefits which could change throughout the life of the contract.

“The temp workers are going to kill us,” one man said as he stood in the drizzle.

Pavletich said the company’s offer is solid.

“I can say that at Bemis, we really are concerned about the employees and their families. And we’re disappointed that they rejected the contract,” she said. “Part of the contract included a pay increase that was as good or better than any other plant, either at Bemis, or in the United States.”

The average straight-time wage, without benefits, for hourly workers at the Terre Haute plant is just under $17 per hour, she wrote in an e-mail.

Union members said picketers would remain on the line 24 hours a day until the issue is resolved.

“Shame on you! Shame on you!” several shouted as a semitrailer left the plant, passing their line.

“I got a family to feed,” the driver shouted back.

“So do we,” the picketers yelled.

Union spokesman Bill Kirby declined comment.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or

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