Hard by the Hudson river about 14 miles north of Albany, the sprawling Momentive Performance Materials factory in Waterford has supplied generations of upstate New Yorkers with secure, well-paid, blue-collar jobs.
Workers went on strike at Momentive last November hoping to fight off a new contract that would have slashed their healthcare and retirement benefits.
Many of Momentive’s workers voted for Donald Trump, whose appeal to blue-collar workers helped Trump comfortably beat Hillary Clinton in Saratoga County, Waterford’s district.
“I would pray to God that Donald Trump would reconsider what he is doing and have a talk with some of these people, especially Mr Schwarzman, about what is going on here in Waterford,” Dominick Patrignani, president of the IUE/CWA Local 81359 union, told the Times Union as negotiations unfolded. “We are extremely concerned with the loss of jobs, and this guy is supposed to be the new czar of job creation and growth.”
However, after 105 days on strike and a tense, highly public battle, the billionaires have won.
“I was naive to this. I didn’t realise they were doing this all across the country,” said Robert Hohn, a Momentive employee for 16 years. The new deal leaves Hohn with an uncertain future as he attempts to cope with already outsized medical bills for his disabled wife. “We are not looking to own boats and yachts and stuff like that. We are looking to pay our mortgage. We are looking to send our kids and our grandkids to college. That’s all we are looking for it’s just something basic, simple, the everyday American dream needs.”
59-year-old Jack Mack, 59, and his brother Kevin, 57, are second generation Momentive workers. “If you were willing to work hard, you could make good money,” he says.
There is a quiet anger to Jack Mack’s voice after the vote.
“It’s not good, it’s not good,” he says. “Given the situation to make the right decision, the correct moral decision, they refused to do it. I mean, it’s plain and simple. We work in a hazardous environment and here we are fighting for healthcare.”