24 October, 2023Workers at the paper and packaging company WestRock, New Jersey, USA, have been on strike for 137 days.
Members represented by United Auto Workers Union (UAW) Region 9 have been on the picket line, fighting against the company’s demand that workers leave the union insurance plan and go into the company plan, which would mean a cut to their benefits.
The box manufacturing workforce’s contracts expired in December 2022. They have been bargaining since November last year and after six months of extensive bargaining UAW called a strike.
Negotiations are at a halt and despite the company having soaring profits since the pandemic, the company is demanding major cuts to loyal long-term workers’ healthcare benefits, which they have been part of for 25 years. The company insists that workers are in a bloated union plan that provides too rich of a benefit package. However, the union has said that the consumer-based plan that the company is forcing is a high deductible and works on an- if you get ill you pay- plan.
The company is also offering a 12.5 per cent wage increase over a five-year agreement, but this is below the inflation rate and the industry standard within the region. Not reducing health care is a main priority for workers in the conflict.
“Today marks day 137 on the picket line. Our brothers and sisters are resolute in their fight for fairness, dignity, and equality in the workplace. Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated and certainly reciprocated,”
says Raymond Jensen, assistant director of UAW Region 9.
Tom Grinter, IndustriALL director of paper and pulp says:
“We stand in solidarity with the workers at WestRock. Their demands are fair and a company that has soaring profits should provide a fair share to the workers.”
WestRock has 94 union employees at this site, and they have been represented by UAW for over 30 years. The workers make boxes for a variety of companies, including Amazon and Frito Lay.