GENERAL CHEMICAL'S WYOMING STRIKE TAKES TOLL ON FAMILIES, COMMUNITY

GENERAL CHEMICAL'S WYOMING STRIKE TAKES TOLL ON FAMILIES, COMMUNITY

The real costs of the 13-week-old strike at the General Chemical Co. soda ash plant west of here won't show up at the cash register or in sales tax receipts, some community members say.

The true costs are the potential permanent rifts among families and friends and the chilling effect the ongoing strike could have on attracting new businesses, they say.Union members aren't predicting when the strike, which began July 31, will end. General Chemical's 480 hourly workers walked off the job when negotiations over a new three-year contract broke down.

Company and United Steel Workers of America representatives have had three rounds of discussions since then, including one last week that was overseen by a federal mediator. More federally mediated talks are scheduled Wednesday in Rock Springs.

Meanwhile, families of hourly and salaried employees and community members deal with the strike's effects.

Weekly strike pay is $140 for union members who spend the required amount of time on the picket line. Some strikers have found temporary seasonal jobs, but the increasingly cold weather has some concerned that work will be harder to find.

Demand at local food banks is up while some businesses are reporting decreased sales.

About 160 salaried General Chemical workers, along with company employees

from other facilities across the country, have been running the trona mining and soda ash processing operations since the strike began. The employees have had to work long hours, originally toiling eight to 12 days straight and going home for two-day breaks.

Now, the employees are allowed to go home every two days for 12 hours and are bused to and from work by the company. General Chemical has refused to

allow the salaried employees to be interviewed by the media.

Kaye Tyler, who works for attorney Dick Honaker, who represents the local union, said her husband, Don, and one of his brothers are on strike while another brother-in-law and his wife are salaried employees.

She hasn't seen or talked to her two relatives, who have been inside the plant since the strike began. Ms. Tyler said her husband has been determined to not let the strike affect his relationship with his nephew, whose parents are the salaried employees. He won't allow the strike to be discussed around his nephew.