NILES - More than 40 steelworkers at Phillips Manufacturing walked off the job Thursday, striking over what they say are unfair wages, benefits and working conditions.
The members of United Steelworkers Local 4564-02 began their strike at 11:40 a.m. Thursday, when workers shut down their machines for a scheduled lunch period, walked out of the plant and began their pickets at 504 Walnut St.
Workers have remained on the job since Aug. 9 when their previous contract expired. During that time, the sides have met 15 times, but major disputes remain in seniority issues and health insurance language, along with wages, said Dennis Brubaker, staff representative with the United Steelworkers, who was involved in the talks.
''We took a vote Tuesday. We've made it known that we would strike at will because we didn't have an extension (to the contract),'' Brubaker said.
Phillips Director of Human Resources Brad Garlock declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations but did release a brief statement expressing the company's disappointment.
"Phillips Manufacturing is disappointed the USW has opted to take our employees on strike. However, we do respect that right. We remain positive and look forward to continuing to work with the USW on a new collective bargaining agreement that is satisfactory for all," Garlock said.
Brubaker noted that picket duty schedules are being developed for the next seven weeks.
''Plan for the long term and hope for the short term,'' he said.
The plant manufactures steel parts used in the production of drywall.
Phillips also operates plants in Nebraska and Florida. Attempts to reach a company spokesman in Niles and Nebraska were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.
Brubaker said a union strike fund is available for striking workers based on need, along with emergency health care coverage.