CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will bring leaders from Constellium Rolled Products and the United Steelworkers of America together for a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss how to end a strike that began at the company's Ravenswood plant Aug. 5."It's extremely important for Constellium and its employees to reach an agreement," Tomblin said in a news release Tuesday. "A successful resolution to these negotiations is very important to Jackson County, the over 1,000 workers employed by the company, and the entire state of West Virginia."Neither union representatives nor company officials wanted to comment before the meeting.Randy Moore, sub-district director for the United Steelworkers in West Virginia, said Tuesday that he did not want to say anything before both sides meet with the governor."We intend to be there. But I have nothing new to say," said Laura Prisc, Constellium's communications manager."I'm very pleased to see both sides are meeting to work toward an agreement that's fair to everyone," Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a statement Tuesday. "I'm hopeful an agreement will be reached, and I'm thankful for Gov. Tomblin's work in moving us all closer to that goal.""It is extremely important to work through our differences, not only for the workers, their families and the company, but also for the manufacturing base of our great state," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a statement.Moore and other union leaders previously said the changes Constellium is demanding in its health insurance coverage plans were the major reason negotiations for a new five-year contract broke down.
Since 1994, union negotiators say they have only asked for "modest wage increases" to keep good health-care benefits.Today, Moore previously pointed out, the 700 union workers at Constellium make more than $2 an hour less than workers employed by other companies in the industry.Constellium is a major manufacturer of high-quality aluminum that is used for airplanes, automobiles and other transportation-related products. The USW, based in Pittsburgh, recently began paying to continue health benefits for members of Local 5668 and their families.Union leaders also are collecting donations for members who need financial help. Striking Constellium workers have filed applications to receive unemployment insurance benefits, but the state unemployment compensation board has not decided whether they will be eligible to receive those benefits.Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.