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March 21, 2018
Albany lawmakers to visit Momentive chemical plant strikers.
Updated On: Feb 05, 2018
GINGER ADAMS OTIS NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Updated: Sunday, February 5, 2017, 11:24 PM. Nearly a dozen Albany lawmakers are planning to visit striking workers Monday at the Momentive chemical plant picket line in an effort to break the stalemate between the union and management and get everybody back on the job, officials told the Daily News. Many of the politicians are members of the state Assembly's Labor Committee, said Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo), the assemblyman who put out an open call among Albany Democrats for attendance. Among those going is Queens Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who represents Flushing. Even though the upstate plant is well out of her district, Rozic said she felt it was important to show up Monday. "In this day and age we have to be very attuned to what's going on in the workforce, whether it's in upstate New York or right in the city," said Rozic, who was elected in 2012. "Workers everywhere are under tremendous pressure from corporate entities and more often than not what we see is that their unions are trying to negotiate in good faith and they're just not being met at the table." State Controller Thomas DiNapoli is also going to stop by the site on Tuesday afternoon, his office said. Assemblyman Ryan said he called Momentive CEO Jack Boss on Friday about the field trip. "I let him know that we'll be bringing legislators from outside the area in to the strike site, and we are encouraging and willing to help Momentive build a strong company with a productive work force," said Ryan. "It wasn't hostile at all ? I know he's hearing from a lot of people who want to try and get this strike settled." "As always, we respects the rights of our union represented workers to express their opinions. Our goal continues to be reaching an agreement with Union. We are focused on continuing the safe operations of our plant and serving our customers," Momentive commented to the Daily News. The Buffalo lawmaker said he's grown increasingly concerned as the strike ? now in its third month ? drags on. Not far from where the Momentive workers are picketing 24-hours a day, there's a Honeywell plant where employees have been locked out for about a year. Plant management locked them out when contract negotiations stalled, according to their union. In retrospect, Ryan said, he should have gotten involved in the Honeywell contract dispute right away ? even though it's not in Buffalo. NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi Workers at Momentive chemical plant in Waterford, N.Y., have been striking. (MIKE GROLL/MIKE GROLL) "What I have learned through experience in my district is that we have to have a mutual defense ? no matter where these issues are situated across the state. We can't lose good factories and companies providing high-paying middle class jobs ? and we're spending a lot of money trying to develop and bring in companies who create those types of jobs," he said, adding that he will be reaching out to Honeywell this week to get an update on the lockout. The 700 Momentive workers on strike at the massive upstate chemical manufacturing plant in Waterford, N.Y. ? about 20 minutes outside Albany ? walked off the job Nov. 2 when contract talks between the management and their union, IUE-CWA, broke down over proposed cuts to health care and other benefits, including getting rid of health care for retirees. Traditionally the plant has offered coverage to workers after they retire until they turn 65 and are eligible for Medicare ? but that benefit is now on the chopping block, the union said. Over the past 10 years, since Momentive was purchased by Apollo Global management, a billion-dollar private equity firm, workers have had their wages slashed, pensions frozen and other benefits reduced in a series of "concessionary contracts," the union says. The once-profitable plant was formerly owned by General Electric. After it was purchased by private equity investors, it wound up saddled with debt and forced into bankruptcy, emerging in 2014 with restructured financials. Many Momentive workers have demanded Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman get involved in their struggle. Many Momentive workers have demanded Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman get involved in their struggle. (© JASON LEE / REUTERS/REUTERS) During that time, Trump's billionaire "jobs czar," Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone, one of the world's wealthiest private equity firms, acquired nearly an 8% stake in Momentive through one of his subsidiaries. He sold his share over the summer, according to a company spokesman. But that hasn't stopped Momentive workers ? many of whom voted for Trump ? from demanding Schwarzman get involved in their struggle, especially since he's been tapped by the President to head up a forum on job creation. For Assemblyman Ryan, the path that led to Momentive's current labor woes is all too familiar. It's a pattern he's experienced several times first-hand in Buffalo. Many of the Momentive chemical plant workers who are on strike voted for Donald Trump. Many of the Momentive chemical plant workers who are on strike voted for Donald Trump. (POOL/GETTY IMAGES) "We've seen companies like this ? they're a profitable, long-standing part of the community and then suddenly they get purchased by an investment group and they have an extraction model," he said. "They want to make a lot of money and they want to make it fast. Instead of innovating and developing new products and investing in themselves, they want to lower worker wages and strip away benefits." That's exactly what happened when a private equity firm in Buffalo bought an ambulance company and treated it like it was "a spreadsheet," Ryan said. "Given all of the changes we are seeing in the nation, we have to stop thinking locally. Instead of thinking this is an Albany issue that won't affect Buffalo, I've realized there's a ripple effect that can hit all our workers," he said. Rozic agreed ? and she also said she was worried about the environmental issues related to the Momentive plant, which is currently using replacement workers to do the jobs the trained strikers once held. It's not just a labor concern, there is concern for the community too," she said. And given that President Trump campaigned on the promise to bring back jobs, Rozic said she views Momentive as "one small example that could have national implications" for the labor force. "This is in Trump's home state of New York. He should be very concerned about what's going at Momentive," she said.
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