Striking members of Laborers Local 563, fighting to retain their retirement benefits at Elk River-based Cretex, are expanding their outreach to Twin Cities’ Spanish-language radio.

Commercials about the workers’ strike already are airing on other Twin Cities stations and began Wednesday on AM 630 Radio Rey and La Mera Buena FM 107.5.

Members Alvaro Puente and Julio Ocampo are featured in the radio spots. “It’s not right for the company to take away the pension when so many of us have put in so many years of work,” said Puente, who has worked at Cretex for 10 years.

Ocampo added that this strike is important for him and his fellow Latino workers. “I have three daughters and a wife. I feel bad I’m not working,” said Ocampo. “At the same time it feels great to be fighting for my rights and the rights of all my brothers and sisters on the picket line.”

Approximately half of the more than 40 construction craft laborers of Local 563 that are on the picket line identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. These workers have been on strike at the company’s Shakopee facility since Wednesday, June 19, after negotiations between the union workers and management broke down. Workers had been working without a contract since December 31, 2012.

Negotiations broke down on June 18, when Cretex failed to budge from its demand to eliminate pension contributions and slash workers’ retirement package by roughly 80 percent. Under the company’s proposal, employees would see hourly compensation (wage plus retirement contribution) drop by anywhere from $2.91 and $4.07 in 2013 depending on an employee’s age and the amount he or she puts into the company’s 401(k) plan. Simply put, that’s the equivalent of a pay cut of 12 to 17 percent.

“Our members represent many cultures and ethnicities. In fact, half of our Latino workers have been on the site for more than 10 years. These are very hard working, prideful people who we are proud to have represent us on the picket line. This radio campaign helps us get our message out on two very popular Spanish-speaking radio stations,” said Tim Mackey, business manager for Twin Cities-based Local 563 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

“Our members had no other choice when their livelihoods were threatened by the greed of Cretex. The general public has the right to hear how deplorable Cretex is being when it comes to the way they treat employees who have given decades of their lives to work there. Our employees contribute money to their retirement funds from their own paychecks. Now this company wants to take all of that away just so they can put more money in their corporate pockets.”

Local 563 represents nearly 5,000 skilled construction craft laborers that are trained in many facets of the construction industry. They are affiliated with Laborers’ International Union of North America LIUNA, based in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit the strike Facebook page or Local 563’s website.

Cretex, established in 1917, is a privately held, diversified manufacturing company headquartered in Elk River. Cretex Concrete Products provides reinforced concrete pipe and other precast and pre-stressed concrete products serving the infrastructure needs of the central United States. Cretex Companies employs about 1,800 people in 35 locations in 11 states.

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