KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nearly 200 workers at a Kansas City, Missouri, manufacturing facility are picketing on Monday after the company they worked for locked them out due to a labor dispute.
The contract between Milbank Manufacturing and United Steelworkers Local 13 expired at midnight, and after two weeks of negotiations the two sides failed to reach an agreement leading to the lockout.
The company builds and sells utility boxes called “meter sockets” that go on houses and businesses, and are in the process of building thousands of the boxes to be shipped to the East Coast to help rebuild following Superstorm Sandy.
The sticking points between the company and the union concern salary increases, health benefits and absenteeism.
Milbank CEO Lavon Winkler says that last week, nearly 25 percent of the workers didn’t show up to work – and while he says he hates to lockout workers at this time of year, he says that it has always been company policy when it comes to an expiring union contract.
“I feel bad for those folks,” said Winkler. “I don’t like the fact that here we have the holiday coming upon us, you know, Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner. They’d like to be working, we’d like them to be working, we just need to come to an agreement.”
United Steelworkers Local 13 president Bob Hill says that health care was a major issue in the negotiations.
“They want to take 25 percent of our gross wages for health care, no one can afford it. We can’t afford it, no one can,” said Hill.
Both sides say that they want to come to an agreement soon. More meetings with federal mediators are scheduled for Monday afternoon.