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Several cement truck drivers and operators waited hours Thursday afternoon for their local union representative to return with news about a strike spread across various Irving Materials Inc. locations in the state.
The strike rose during renegotiation of a three-year contract between the company and the union.
Members of Local 89, which has an office in Louisville, chatted idly, leaning against and sitting on the tailgates of two trucks that propped up two signs announcing the strike.
They had been there since 6 a.m. dressed in their uniforms with boxes of doughnuts to get them through the wait.
Cement trucks rolled out of the business, despite that regular truck drivers are striking union members.
The strikers chuckled and worried aloud when they saw a truck roll past with a chute down or other preparations improperly completed by drivers who took over work duties that day.
The strike, which began Tuesday night, includes locations in Elizabethtown, Radcliff, Brandenburg, Leitchfield and Louisville. Representatives from the operations in Elizabethtown and Radcliff directed questions to the Irving corporate office in Louisville.
The office released the following statement Wednesday and had no updates Thursday.
“Although IMI has had a longstanding and productive relationship with the Teamsters, it is unfortunate in these difficult economic times that we have been unable to reach an agreement,” the statement reads. “Our commitment remains one of fairness to our employees and service to our customers.”
James Barnett of Elizabethtown has been driving for IMI for 17 years, longer than any of the other striking drivers.
“It’s my first strike,” he said. “I don’t know what to think about this.”
Barnett said the company might have fallen on some hard economic times lately, but it was about $600 million over budget a couple years ago.
Jimmie Watts of Leitchfield added the drivers hadn’t seen any benefit from federal stimulus money put into new construction meant to help companies such as Irving.
Watts said the company wants to take away the drivers’ hauling bonus and won’t offer a cost-of-living pay increase.
“We’re poor,” he said.
That’s hard to take when drivers see the company buying new trucks and hiring more office employees, he said.
Watts said drivers have to pay high gas prices and the cost of maintaining vehicles.
“It’s important that we get something because fuel prices and a gallon of milk and bread and everything aren’t going down, they’re going up,” he said.
Watts said a new contract has been due since July and union drivers have been kind by not striking earlier.
He doesn’t think company owners respect drivers, even though they are reasonable and all want to work.
“We’ve got management that they don’t know who we are, and they don’t care anything about us,” he said. “If they did, they’d at least offer us something.”
J.P. Parker of Radcliff said quietly that he hoped the situation would be solved.
“You just have to go with the union,” he said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.