Aiken Workers Strike To Save Pensions

Aiken County workers represented by Teamsters Local 509 have gone on strike at an Owens-Corning plant

Except for workers who turn 60 this year, said shop steward Eddie Day, employee pensions would be frozen at their current levels. Future employees would come in with lower pay for certain jobs, he said.
Day said the company had offered a $1,500 bonus for the Teamsters workers this year, then 1 percent next year and 2 percent in the third.

Aiken Standard photo of workers on strike outside the Owens-Corning Plant.

“But I’ve got 32 years invested and waiting eight to 10 more years on my retirement,” Day said. “Sometimes you have to make a stand. It’s not all about the money. They are set to make an example out of us for the rest of the company.”
“We don’t comment on those negotiations,” said Saragian. “What I can tell you is that the Aiken plant must remain profitable and competitive, and Owens-Corning has made a fair and competitive offer. … It is the final offer.”
Day admitted his concern about the possibility of workers losing their jobs.
“We felt if the (contract offer) was fair and competitive, we wouldn’t be striking,” he said. “It would be understandable if they were not making money, but they are making money. They told us they were making money.”

It used to be the norm that working people had pension plans. Since the 80s, private companies have increasingly pressured their workers into 401(k) plans.

As public workers around South Carolina and the country agitate to protect their pensions, its worth remembering that workers in the private sector are doing the same.

Furthermore, the Aiken County Council has done a deal on tax breaks with Owens-Corning. Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young (a Republican). Tells The State that he has no interest in the strike, he’s just waiting to see how things turn out. it is telling that he and the council have intervened on behalf to of the company, but will not act to protect the interests of Aiken County workers.

Among those on the picket line was Larry Meredith, employed at the plant for the past seven years. He has a 401(k) but fears he could get nothing if the stock market crashes. He is dismayed by the prospect of having his pension frozen.
“The whole point is about getting a job and looking forward and having something on the back end,” said Meredith, 42. “By the time I’m 65, Social Security may not be there. They don’t want to give us a raise and say we’re making too much money. But health care is going up, and, being diabetic, I’ve got to have my benefits.”

All people want a secure retirement. The workers of Local 509 are right to retain their pensions. And we who don’t have pensions are right to seek a guaranteed income in our old age.

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