JACKSON COUNTY, MI – Hail, lightening and rain hasn’t stopped employees on strike at manufacturers in Jackson and Calhoun counties, who are asking to keep their pension and days off for doctor visits.

Nineteen employees at Miller Tool & Die in Jackson have been on strike since Sept. 17, and 35 employees at Albion Casters have been on strike since Sept. 25. Striking workers are all part of International Association of Machinists Local 435.

Both factories have employees outside 24/7, through rain, hail, wind and low overnight temperatures. It’s the first strike in more than 28 years for both.

“It’s been cold, and it’s been wet,” Local 435 President Jamie Miller said Friday, Oct. 2. Miller is an employee at Miller Tool & Die and has no affiliation with the company owners.

Employees go on strike at Jackson factory: ‘We want our pension’

Employees at Albion Casters, 800 N. Clark St., worked throughout the shutdown at the start of the coronavirus pandemic because they were deemed essential workers, employee Benjamin Speer said. They received a $2-an-hour hazard pay raise until July, but it’s unclear why that stopped since the pandemic is ongoing, Speer said.

“After being told we were critical, essential workers, it was a kick in the gut,” employee Don Collins said.

During negotiations, Albion Casters owner, Colson Group USA, wanted to cut the number of unpaid days for doctor’s visits from four to two and mandate overtime on Saturdays and possibly holidays, Speer said. That would mean employees work 56 hours a week instead of 48.

Colson Group USA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reducing the number of unpaid days employees can take for doctor’s visits doesn’t make sense, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins said. He said management told employees they needed to