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Tool workers in Chicago go on strike over healthcare
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08:33, August 26, 2009

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Workers for a tool maker took to the street outside their plant in Chicago Tuesday to protest a unilateral health insurance cut by their employer.

"They started at about 5:30 a.m. and will be out there as long as they have to be", a spokeswoman of the workers said, adding she was not sure whether any talks were scheduled with the company.

Company representatives could not immediately be reached.

Teamsters Local 743 union members working at SK Hand Tools in Chicago voted unanimously to strike Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. due to the company's unilateral withdrawal of the workers' health insurance without notice.

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board has issued an unfair labor practice complaint alleging that the company has bargained illegally by stopping health care coverage without notice.

"President Obama is leading a national debate about how to protect hard-working Americans from callous employers like SK Hand Tools," said Teamsters Local 743 president Richard Berg.

"This French-owned company has left us no choice but to strike for our basic needs, health care," he added.

SK Hand Tools has been making high quality metal tools in Chicago for 88 years. SK workers have been in contract negotiations for nine months. The company has been in the Teamsters union since 1968.

The workers currently earn on average 14 U.S. dollars per hour. The pay reduction that management is proposing includes an additional 4 dollars cut in the first 6 months, which would lower that average to just over minimum wage. SK Hand Tools employs about 70 workers.

The union of Teamsters Local 743 represents 11,000 workers throughout the Chicagoland area working in manufacturing, health care, clerical, food service, warehouse and maintenance industries.


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