Kennametal workers strike, demand fair contract

  • Chad McGinnis, international representative of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, rallies union members at Kennametal in Greenfield where workers have gone on strike. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • George Miner, who started working 32 years ago for Greenfield Tap and Die, is on strike at Kennametal in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Henry brothers, Michael, Joseph and Nick, who all work at Kennametal, are on strike. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 274 picket outside Kennametal in Greenfield where workers have gone on strike. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 274 picket outside Kennametal in Greenfield where workers have gone on strike. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 274 picket outside Kennametal in Greenfield where workers have gone on strike. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2019 5:59:31 PM

GREENFIELD — Beginning Sunday evening, the first strike in over 30 years started outside Kennametal on Sanderson Street.

Chants of “no contract, no taps,” “contract or else” and “union power” were shouted over a microphone and echoed by the circle of strikers outside of the tool supply company on Monday.

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 274 has expressed frustration with the current contract proposal that workers say will force overtime, significantly increase deductibles for health insurance plans, not provide a livable wage increase and bring a steady flow of temporary workers into the Greenfield plant.

The last time Kennametal’s unionized workers authorized the right to strike was in 1986. There were about 500 workers at the industrial plant. Shortly thereafter, they went on strike.

Thirty-three years later, the now 65 workers at Kennametal are striking once again.

Chad McGinnis, international representative of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said the union has been fighting to defend its contract since 1941.

“Some people here are generations deep,” McGinnis said. “These are good, sustainable jobs, and it’s not just about us. It’s about the families and the community. This is self defense — cutting wages and health care is pulling the bottom out of the local economy.”

Contract negotiations with Kennametal Inc. started in March. In April, the unionized workers unanimously agreed to the right to go on strike, according to McGinnis.

He also claims Kennametal has been participating in unfair labor practice.

“They’ve committed bad faith bargaining to retaliating on union officers,” McGinnis said. “The last time they met with us, which was last week, rather than negotiating, they kept us sitting for the better part of two days. They gave us this last offer. They stonewalled us.”

Christina Sutter, director of corporate communications, said Kennametal has been negotiating with the union for five months “in good faith with the intent of reaching an agreement that is fair and improves the overall competitiveness of our facility.”

“Unfortunately, the union rejected our last highly competitive offer and has made the decision to strike,” Sutter said. “We respect our employees’ right to strike and hope that they will do so safely and respectfully. At the same time, we must remain focused on serving our customers without interruption and have contingency plans in place to do so. Kennametal remains interested in reaching a new agreement with the union.”

Shawn Coates, president of the union at the Sanderson Street shop and a Greenfield resident, said he would like Kennametal to continue to negotiate.

“I would like them to come back to the table and negotiate with us,” Coates said. “I’d like them to give us a good contract.”

Joseph Henry and his brothers, Mike and Nick Henry, work at Kennametal together. They are striking together, too.

“They (Kennametal) are chiselling away at us a little bit from all sides,” Joseph Henry said. “But when you look at it, these little things add up.”

Jason McGrath of Athol said there has been support for the strikers.

“I’ve heard from people throughout New England that support us,” McGrath said. “People have been driving by and honking. There are other local union members supporting us, too.”

Katie Lafferty, a Winchester. N.H. resident who is moving to Greenfield this week, said she believes the union isn’t asking for much.

“We’re looking to make a decent wage and keep our good health insurance, it’s not too much to ask for,” Lafferty said. “I’m moving to this community and I’d like to stay here. We appreciate all the support we get. People are welcome to come strike with us, donate. Anything they can do is helpful to the cause.”

With hopes of good faith negotiations, the strikers said they will continue to stand outside of the buildings with signs in tote.

“We want to reach an agreement,” McGinnis said, “and settle on a contract that reflects the hard work and dignified standard of living for these workers.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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