NILES - Police have responded to the picket line at Phillips Manufacturing twice in two days, one call involving striking steelworkers blocking an entrance way who were "pushed" by vehicles attempting to leave the plant, a police report says.
According to police, two pickets were shoved out of the way by vehicles attempting to leave the plant at 504 Walnut St. about 4:35 p.m. Thursday. Police were already at the plant responding to a call that the striking workers were blocking the entrance way when they witnessed the drivers of a white van and a silver Chrysler push their bumpers into two pickets.
Officers stopped the vehicles but did not file any charges. The pickets did not claim to be injured but were told by officers they could seek charges in Niles Municipal Court.
Police were called to the plant a second time about 10:30 a.m. Friday for another disturbance, but details from that report weren't immediately available.
Dennis Brubaker, staff representative with the United Steelworkers who had been negotiating on behalf of the workers said the incidents stemmed from the company's use of replacement workers at the plant. He said striking workers first saw a van bringing in four or five replacement workers on Monday, leading to flaring tempers.
About 44 members of United Steelworkers Local 4564-02 have been on strike since Sept. 13 over what they say are unfair wages, benefits and working conditions. They had been working without a contract since Aug. 9.
Brubaker said there have been no new negotiations since before the strike, and he doesn't expect any new talks for several days.
''We are doing what we can,'' Brubaker said, noting the union has been processing forms for emergency health insurance for the striking workers.
An attempt to reach management at Phillips Manufacturing for comment on the use of replacement workers or negotiations was not successful.
The plant manufactures steel parts used with plasterboard in the construction industry.