ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Union workers picketed INEOS Pigments on Sunday afternoon for unfair labor practices.

About 50 INEOS Plant 2 employees gathered at the intersection of State and Middle roads — just down the road from the titanium dioxide production facility at 2426 Middle Road.

The workers carried signs reading, “Stop the War on Workers,” “Teamsters Local 377 Strike,” and “International Chemical Workers 1033C Strike.”

“We’ve been negotiating since December 2021,” said Ralph “Sam” Cook, a trustee with Teamsters Local 377. “The company gutted our health care and changed our plan. Some employees are paying $600 a month for health care.”

Cook said they want the company to stop violating U.S. labor laws and bargain a contract that honors the contributions of its American workforce.

Because the employees care about the company’s operations and did not want to create any type of unsafe conditions, they notified the company of the impending strike beforehand.

Jed Dowdy, Ashtabula site operations director, said in a March 12 letter to all Ashtabula complex employees that the union did notify them and they prepared a contingent workforce of management level, and non-represented workers to fill in for the picketers.

“Our goal at Plant 2 is to reach a competitive agreement without a work disruption,” Dowdy said. “The company has negotiated in good faith since Jan. 5, 2022, and we will continue to do so.”

Several of the strikers said that’s not true.

Cook said the bargaining unit employees will return to work if the company agrees to seven conditions, including no retaliation; unilateral changes in terms and conditions of employment; and stop saying, “It is what it is,” and stop making threats during negotiations.

“If the company agrees to these conditions, the strikers will return to the plant,” according to an email union workers sent to Gus Lopez, labor relations manager for INEOS.

Lopez could not be reached for comment.

Dowdy said the union has not given him an indication as to how long the protest will last.

INEOS Pigments, a subsidiary of INEOS, is one of the largest producers of titanium dioxide in North America and the leading producer of titanium chemicals.

Plant 2 in Ashtabula employs about 140 people.

In September 2021, the Plant 2 employees voted to form a union after the company increased the cost of family health care by more than $100 per week, and began utilizing under-trained subcontractors to work at the facility.

In addition to the chemical giant’s elimination of pensions and affordable health care, INEOS workers filed unfair labor practice charges last July against the company for changing working conditions without bargaining. The schedule change significantly reduced some of the workers’ income.

Cook said Plant 2 employees deserve a fair contract and a good pension.

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