Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Teamsters, Airgas Try to Negotiate Contract

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Teamsters, Airgas Try to Negotiate Contract

Article excerpt

Earlier this summer, Teamsters members working for Airgas Mid- America in Charleston unanimously rejected the company's offer for a collective bargaining agreement - the first contract being negotiated there since local Airgas workers voted to have the Teamsters represent them last summer. Located in the Patrick Street Plaza, the local Airgas facility has 22 employees who fill and distribute compressed gases, including oxygen, argon and nitrogen.

Shipped to Airgas branches throughout West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, those gases are used at local hospitals, nursing homes and coal mines, as well as in welding jobs.

On its website, Airgas states it is "one of the nation's leading single-source suppliers of gases, welding and safety products. Our distribution network serves more than one million customers of all sizes with a broad offering of top-quality products and unmatched expertise.

"It's time for change at Airgas. This board and management team has turned a deaf ear to the concerns of investors and workers, Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and president of Teamsters Local 175 in South Charleston, said after Airgas' annual shareholders meeting earlier this month. The union itself is a longtime shareholder in Airgas.

Earlier this month, 53 percent of Airgas shareholders voted to withhold support from three of the company's nine board members who were up for re-election.

Outside the company's annual shareholders meeting in Philadelphia, Teamsters members protested what they called the company's deteriorating labor relations and discriminatory pay practices. The pickets warned ongoing labor disputes could lead to disruptions in the company's services to hospitals and health care providers across the country.

The Airgas board has nine members. But only three members are elected, or re-elected, for three-year terms each year. …

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