Polar Tank Trailer employees strike after negotiations fall through

Workers allege mandatory overtime at Springfield plant.

October 14, 2010

Picket signs bobbed above striking steelworkers Wednesday just outside the Polar Tank Trailer company in Springfield.

About 150 welders, assemblers and fabricators went on strike late Tuesday night after two months of negotiations fell through.

The workers have accused management of coercion, intimidation and unfair mandatory overtime.

“We feel like we’re up against a brick wall,” said Charles Elmore, president of the United Steelworkers of America Local 11-770.

“They don’t care about your family life,” said union member Albert Sims, pointing to the Polar facility. “This is your home to them.”

In response to the strike, Polar Tank Trailers General Manager David Gress read a prepared statement:

“On October 12, 2010, employees of Polar Tank Trailers in Springfield have, for the second time, rejected the company’s best and final offer submitted to the union after extensive negotiations and have voted to strike.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the employees’ decision to reject our offer and strike. We will continue to operate our plant.”

Gress declined to add any further comment.

Workers picketed in 15-man shifts throughout the day.

The strike went into effect immediately after 95 percent of members voted at 6 p.m. Tuesday in favor of the strike, union officials said.

Polar employees who are still on the job include office and clerical employees, guards, supervisors, and employees who have worked for the company for less than 60 days.

Polar Tank Trailers makes semi tank trailers which haul gasoline, crude oil or dry concrete.

Worker concerns
The five-year agreement between the Local 11-770 and Polar expired Oct. 2.

The News-Leader was not able to obtain a copy of the terms sought by Polar.

Elmore said the workers are satisfied with their salaries and benefits.

Picketers said their main concern is a stipulation that would allow management to make mandatory a work week of up to 58 hours.

“If you want to volunteer for it, that’s fine,” Sims said, “but it shouldn’t be mandatory.”

John Wiseman, USW spokesman for the 11th district, did not return calls for comment.

Elmore said the strike would continue for as long as necessary, adding that they are set up to strike for years.

“The sooner we reach an agreement, the better,” he said. “But we are prepared to do whatever it takes.”

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