Campaign for Fair Labor Standards for EaglePicher Workers Heats Up;

Hundreds Sign Petitions Supporting Joplin Workers; Steelworkers Say Company Taking Advantage of Defense Contractor Status

Contact: David Jackson, USW Local 812 Unit President, 417-438-0273
             Howard Scott, USW, 412-562-2521

Joplin, Mo. – The United Steelworkers (USW) announced today that workers at EaglePicher Corp in Joplin facing forced changes in their labor agreement and big increases in the cost  of  family health insurance from new owners, gained important allies in the fight against corporate greed.

Union workers at the 250-employee plant represented by USW Local 812, have now received support petitions with more than 600 signatures of salaried and hourly workers from across the country. Primarily members of United Autoworkers, the petitioners pledge solidarity in the workers’ fight for a fair union contract. Local 812 members anticipate a growing wave of support and campaign activity in their fight to maintain decent living standards for workers and their families in Joplin.

EaglePicher workers in Joplin produce specialized batteries for the defense and aerospace industries.  Their top customers include Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Sandia.  Batteries produced by EaglePicher Technologies are used by U.S. military and other agencies including NASA. They are also used by the governments of Israel, the U.K. and Australia.

The labor agreement covering production workers at EaglePicher in Joplin expired on May 4, 2008.  Rather than negotiate a new labor agreement in good faith, EaglePicher declared impasse and on June 8, notified the union it was unilaterally implementing its “last, best and final” offer, despite the union’s willingness to continue negotiations.

Union representatives say the Bush administration’s National Labor Relations Board has whitewashed the company’s assault on workers, refusing to rule against management’s heavy-handed actions. The USW said time and time again, federal and state governments have allowed management at EaglePicher to flout labor, health and safety, environmental and perhaps other laws.

“Workers at EaglePicher average around $12-14 per hour.  Many of them have worked at the plant for decades. The company has admitted at the bargaining table that its Joplin plant is highly profitable, but it’s still seeking deep concessions.  We take that as a slap in the face,” said USW Local 812 Staff Representative John Wiseman.

Concessions EaglePicher is seeking include eliminating virtually all seniority rights and dramatically increasing the costs for workers’ health insurance.  Per the company’s proposal, family health insurance would at least quadruple the workers’ monthly cost of health insurance by the third year of the contract. 

“Workers earning $12-14 per hour simply can’t afford health care at this price,” said David Jackson, USW Local 812 unit president.

The Steelworkers have now kicked off a campaign to expose what’s going on at EaglePicher, and encourage management to treat workers fairly.


Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222