Steinerfilm Union Protesting Benefit ChangesBy Andy McKeever
07:26PM / Friday, March 16, 2012
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The union representing Steinerfilm employees will be protesting a proposed change in benefits on Sunday.
The Local 81231 of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers representing 18 Steinerfilm employees said it has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and is now taking to the street in protest.
The union is claiming that Steinerfilm denied a cancer-stricken employee short-term disability. They also claim the company is planning to put language in the next contract that would take short-term disability, life insurance and death and dismemberment benefits away after an employee has been laid off for 90 days.
"They're in clear violation of the contract and we're outraged by it," Chief Stewart Gary Allard said on Thursday. "We can't tolerate that language."
Allard said the company initially refused one worker the paperwork to file for short-term disability but after months of pressure finally gave him them. But Allard said he is skeptical that the employee will actually receive the benefits.
In the course of that debate, Allard said the company stated intention to add language into the contract during the the upcoming negotiations that adds the 90-days clause but an official proposal has not yet been given to union representatives.
"They did state that they will be going after this language," Allard said. "I have no reason to believe it's not going to be there."
The biggest reason the benefits are such an issue to workers is because they are often laid off and those periods do exceed 90 days, Allard said.
Now after internal discussions between the union and the company has not yielded the results the union wants, Allard said they are organizing an information picket to rally support. On Sunday, the union is calling on politicians, community members and other organizations to rally at 10 a.m. outside of the company's Simonds Road mill.
"It was voted unanimously by the union to have this informational picket. It could have been called off if they gave something in writing that said they would not try to bring that language," Allard said. "We just want bodies. We want people. We want support."
The picket is not a strike. While the entire union supports the rally, only half will be able to attend because the other half will be working, Allard said.
"The mill runs continuously, around the clock so half of the people are going to be working," Allard said. "I expect it to be peaceful."
Allard said he does not know what to expect for support on Sunday but tried to contact as many people he could. He said he has contacted other organizations such as the Occupy Berkshires and the April 4th Coalition for support.
The union, which represents only the employees working in one of the company's mills, is expected to start contract negotiations in April. Steinerfilms employs more than 100 non-union workers in another division.
Company officials were unavailable for comment on Friday.
Steinerfilm Protest Flyer