CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 700 Teamster pipeline construction workers are walking off their jobs after negotiations broke down with the Pipe Line Contractors Association over proposals to change their retirement programs.
That total will include about 200 workers in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to Galen Munroe, a Teamsters spokesman from Washington, D.C. Their contract expired on Dec. 31.
Most of those local workers have jobs related to drilling and transporting pipelines to Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas reserve drilling sites.
The Pipe Line Contractors Association, based in Dallas, Texas, includes more than 70 construction companies that build and maintain pipeline infrastructures for the oil and natural gas companies.
The PLCA is trying to force the Teamsters to accept 401(k) savings plans, which would ultimately eliminate traditional defined-benefit pensions, Monroe said.
"Traditional pensions offer more security to workers because they provide a set, monthly income at retirement despite the instability and unpredictability of Wall Street," Monroe said.
Rick Bauer, president of Teamsters Local 687 based in Wheeling, said on Tuesday, "The companies don't even want to talk now."
By Tuesday afternoon, 90 pipeline workers had already walked off their jobs in Marshall and Wetzel counties, Bauer said.