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Constellium mill strikers to apply for state unemployment benefits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Striking workers at Constellium's aluminum rolling mill at Ravenswood are expected to apply today for state unemployment benefits.

WorkForce West Virginia employees will be at the armory in Millwood 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to accept applications.

State law allows workers involved in a labor dispute to file a claim for unemployment compensation.

"The claims will be reviewed by a Labor Dispute Tribunal, which consists of an independent, three-member panel established by the state Board of Review to determine their eligibility for benefits," WorkForce spokeswoman Courtney Sisk said.

There is no deadline for a decision on whether the workers are eligible.

Controversy erupted in 2003 when Ohio ruled that striking Kroger employees did not qualify for benefits but West Virginia's tribunal approved benefits for strikers here.

The unemployment compensation fund is financed by a tax on employers so the West Virginia decision drew fire from business groups. West Virginia's fund paid Kroger employees about $2.7 million in benefits.

More than 700 members of United Steelworkers Local 5668 went on strike at Constellium on Aug. 5 over health care benefits.

On Thursday, Constellium issued a press release noting that workers who currently receive company-paid health care benefits would have to buy coverage at their own expense after the end of the month.

Coverage through the Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, known as COBRA, will cost $592 a month for single medical and dental coverage and $2,066 a month for family medical and dental coverage, Constellium said.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday he is concerned about the situation.

Manchin said he has kept in touch with Leo Gerard, international president of the Steelworkers Union, and Christophe Villemin, president of Constellium's Global Aerospace, Transportation and Industry Division.

Contact writer George Hohmann at or 304-348-4836.



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