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20211002 strikes 02.jpg

A sign reading “Unfair Labor Practice Strike” is posted outside Special Metals as workers picket on Oct. 1, 2021, in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Police have been called to the picket lines at Special Metals at least a half a dozen times since a strike began at the Huntington plant.

“These have been minor incidents with no arrests, but we have told both sides we will not tolerate any violations of the law,” Cabell County Sheriff Chuck Zerkle said on Friday. “We are not taking sides, but we will enforce the law.”

Zerkle said the law does not allow demonstrators to block business entrances or impede traffic. He said there were some “minor” traffic issues reported regarding trucks being blocked by striking workers while trying to enter the plant.

“We did get called out twice in one day, but both times the issues were resolved quickly,” the sheriff said.

Zerkle said while most of the Special Metals plant and property is located outside city limits, there are a few entrances that are within city boundaries.

“That makes this a little unique, and the Huntington Police Department has responded once or twice at the Elm Street entrance, which is located inside city limits,” Zerkle said. “No arrests were made then, either.”

Last week, Special Metals’ said its contingency plans are place to keep the plant operating while striking union workers picket outside.

“The safety of our employees, contractors and suppliers remains our top priority as we continue to operate our facility,” David Dugan, director of corporate communications at Oregon-based Precision Castparts, Special Metals’ parent company, said in an email. “As the union conducts its economic strike, we will continue to report improper or illegal conduct on Special Metals’ property.”

United Steelworkers Local 40 and its 450 members went on strike when their contract with the company ended Sept. 30, 2021.

On Friday, the union workers continued to picket outside the plant on Riverside Drive in Huntington. A message left for union officials seeking comment was not immediately returned and union workers on the picket line continued to decline to comment.

Fred Pace is the business reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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