National Grid workers were rallying and picketing Saturday at various locations as a tense stand-off between the electrical company and its local union workers is entering its fourth week. After the unions rejected a new work contract, the company locked the approximately 1,200 workers out when the previous contract expired at midnight on June 24.
A big crowd turned out Saturday at a rally in Lowell, where many held signs and passionately chanted in protest.
"They declared an impasse that we actually don't agree with. We are still moving. We are still bargaining. This is unnecessary. There ere was no reason to block us out," union worker Jim Marioles said.
Many workers brought their wives and kids along with them Saturday.
Those who are out of a job and without health care say their families are the ones suffering.
One worker, Brian Harvey, was left without insurance as he cares for his 21-month-old son who was diagnosed with cancer on the same day he found out his contract expired.
Senators, including Senator Barbara L'Italien, and state representatives are backing up the workers.
Senator L'Italien is working overtime trying to get a moratorium to stop all work except for emergency gas work until the union gets what they deserve.
Joe Kirylo, president of the USW Steelworkers Local 12003, says they refused to accept a deal that reduced benefits for new hires, including replacing pensions with a 401K.
Union workers say National Grid make $6 billion last year and now are trying to take money out of the workers' pockets.
But National Grid has countered that the two unions are rejecting health plans that the majority of their other workers in the state and country already have.
In a statement, they wrote, “We will continue to make the company’s negotiating team available seven days a week until we reach an agreement. In the meantime, employees may elect to retain their benefits through the company at their own expense.”
There has been no resolution after three weeks, but the workers are determined to stand together. While they say it's hard to stay level headed during the stress of not working, they want to come back to work.
A second bargaining session has been scheduled between the company and the unions for Tuesday, July 17. Workers are optimistic a resolution can be made at that time.