MORRIS – About eight Morris-area drivers employed by Tri-State Asphalt are a part of a Teamsters strike against the asphalt distributor, alleging unfair labor practices.
The strike by Teamsters Local 179, which is based in Joliet, began Monday after months of contract negotiations with the company asking for a “fair pay scale, benefits and a pension” came to a head.
Teamsters Local 179 said its members voted to join the union about a year ago and have been trying to get a contract since.
Kevin Noss, a driver, said employees were offered a 1% pay increase, which would not cover the cost-of-living increase, and Tri-State has been increasing the number of hours needed to maintain insurance, which includes an $8,000 deductible in some cases.
Samantha Komperda, a logistics manager for Tri-State Asphalt, said the company was “shocked” when the workers decided to strike because they have worked “diligently” to ensure they were bargaining in “good faith.”
The company proposed a raise Sept. 22, with an immediate 13% pay increase and an average increase of 21% over the next four years, she said.
“We just want a livable wage. We work for a large company that just doesn’t want to take care of those who have taken care of them,” Noss said.
In terms of health coverage, employees elect to enroll with a deductible based on the comprehensive plan they have chosen.
Tri-State officials believe they have bargained in good faith and will continue to do what is best for their employees and the company.
“The leadership team at Tri-State Asphalt is deeply committed to making sure the workplace for our employees is fair and equitable,” Komperda said. “I feel very confident that our team has bargained in good faith during the process of the union negotiations and that we have placed quite an emphasis on equity among the driver pool.
“These people are our family, and we want everyone to be well at the end of the day.”
On Wednesday, Tri-State Asphalt sent a letter to its employees on strike that outlined how striking would affect employees’ benefits. Tri-State said it sent out the letter in accordance with state law, and the employees who received the letter would not be terminated based on their participation in the strike.
In a statement, Tri-State said, “Tri-State is not changing its benefits plans. Anyone who chooses to continue working through the strike will remain eligible for benefits in accordance with company policies and benefit plan requirements. This includes health; dental; vision; a health savings account; a 401(k); and life, disability, critical illness and accident insurance.”
Tri-State and its employees met Monday to resume negotiations, neither party responded to comment by the Morris Herald-News print deadline.