UPDATE: Bull Moose Tube negotiations discontinued until further notice, workers on unemployment
UPDATE: Thursday, October 4 makes it 44 days since employees of a Dade County metal tubing plant were locked out and left without a paycheck.
It's all over union negotiations with the employer, and this marks the state's first lockout in three decades.
The United Steel Workers Union contract with Bull Moose Tube ended in February. Negotiations have lasted seven months and show no signs of ending.
Joey Casey, who is the local union president with USW, said, “we don't know what date is left, what holds for the future because they didn't say the next time they want to meet; they didn't say anything. They just left."
Bull Moose Tube President Jim Charmley disagrees.
He said, "we ended the meeting after the mediator said the meeting was finished, so I would say that we tried to talk with them through a couple of days, felt like we did that, so I am not sure where this claim is coming from."
Union members say the Dade County site is one of the company's lowest paid, with the most expensive insurance packages which is an insult to injury for workers who were locked out 44 days ago.
"It's changed my mentality,” Richard Hamilton, who has spent the last 25 years of his life working for Bull Moose Tube said. “They put you out here in a ditch, try to take your unemployment away and treat you like they do. I'm not happy no more. I'm working for a paycheck now. I no longer have any loyalty for this outfit."
Jim Charmley rebutted saying that each plant is treated differently, but fairly.
"The company's last best offer does compensate the higher wage more so than offsetting the insurance cost for virtually all employees,” Charmley stated.
Both sides said they want workers to return as soon as possible, but it's not clear when that will happen.
At this time, there is not a date set for another round of negotiations, but union members said they will see this situation to the very end.
PREVIOUS STORY: It's now been three weeks since 56 union employees at the Bull Moose Tube in Trenton, Georgia, have been locked out.
Over the past 3 days negotiations between the steel plant and union workers have made little headway and according to members, getting back to work may take a little longer.
"We got here because that's where the company took it to,” says Daniel Flippo who is a representative of the United Steel Workers Union.
Flippo says that the union didn't start this lockout.
Bull Moose Tube says that it still needed to service its customers. So, to avoid a potential strike by employees, union members were locked out and temporary workers were hired.
"Our members cannot be replaced and we know that,” expressed Flippo.
Both the union and the company say meetings at the table are trending positive, but for the workers, some of 30-plus years, say it has been hard on them.
“It’s been tough to see these guys be locked out after trying and helping to grow this company after so many years,” says Joey Casey.
Casey is the local chapter president of United Steel Workers.
“They put so many years of service, putting in dedication and hard work,” says Casey.
Joey Casey says that his co-workers want to get back to work so they can continue to provide for their families.
Through unemployment from the state of Georgia, the union and the support of the community, the workers have been able to stay financially stable and make ends meet.
One thing that both parties say is holding up an agreement is healthcare.
“Today, the members have good health care," says Flippo. “But, the company is trying to radically change it by reducing the benefits and raising the cost of what our members are actually paying for the insurance.”
Bull Moose Tube says they have a competitive offer with increased pay and a more than fair insurance plan.
According to Bull Moose Tube’s president and CEO Jim Charmly, the company is requesting employees go from $21 a week in health care payments to $24 a week with an increased deductible in the new agreement.
“While I understand that adding a $100 to the cost of healthcare certainly is a burden, the way the company is attempting to get over that is by paying about $1000 more a year to make up for it,” says Charmley.
For now formal meetings are being held until the October 1, according to Flippo. But both parties look forward to putting members back to work.
Channel 3 will continue to follow this story as negotiations continue.
Here is the full proposal by Bull Moose Tube: