|NYSNYS NEWS: Momentive strikers go door to door in CEO's wealthy Saratoga neighborhood, drawing angry response.|
By Kyle Hughes
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (January 23) -- Momentive workers took their strike to a wealthy enclave here, going door to door to hand out leaflets Monday to the neighbors of Jack Boss, CEO of the privately held manufacturing firm.
The action drew an angry response from a passing motorist who denounced unions, then jumped out his car and appeared to be ready to fight. Police quickly stepped in and the man, who had a child in the the vehicle, was not charged.
"You want to come with an (expletive) pitchfork?" he said, after offering to give the union members an economic lesson that prompted one the protesters to joke, "You're lucky we didn't come with pitchforks this time."
"We're just taking the fight to the neighborhood," said Craig Finigan of Mechanicville, one of the Momentive workers the driver confronted. "These are the people he lives amongst. He's not listening to his workers, maybe he'll listen to his peers."
Workers at the Waterford plant have been on strike since November 2 and have sought to draw attention in recent weeks to the hedge fund moguls who own the company, which was a General Electric silicones chemical plant until it was sold in 2006.
Boss's house is in a development of luxury homes in a rural district of the city 2 miles from Saratoga Race Course. One nearby home is a 60,000 square foot mansion built by the former CEO of Ayco, the financial services company owned by Goldman Sachs that has offices here. Another home is a 25,000 sq. ft. mansion built by David Silipigno, a longtime entrepreneur and convicted felon.
Boss's home is more modest. Monday, keep out signs were posted on the property. The strikers stood at the end of the street doing media interviews before the run-in with the passing driver who stopped to ask what was going on.
In one of the biggest strikes in recent state history, about 700 members of IUE-CWA union locals have been on strike at Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, NY since November 2. The company is the former General Electric Silicones, and is owned by hedge funds and private investors.
With 10,000 employees and an estimated $6 billion in annual sales, Momentive is one of the biggest privately held companies in the U.S. The owners are demanding healthcare and pension cuts, on top of private wage and pension cuts previously negotiated, Local 8139 Vice President Darryl Houshower said.
"We brought some people up here to leaflet the area so that people know our CEO at Momentive Jack Boss is destroying union jobs," he said. "We've taken massive pay cuts over the last years, we've been hit with healthcare this contract."
Workers at a second Momentive plant in Ohio have also gone out on strike.
Two weeks ago, Momentive workers traveled to New York City to demonstrate outside the offices of Apollo Global, one of the hedge funds that own the company.
The group Hedge Clippers released a report Monday pointing to the wealth of two of Momentive's owners, billionaire hedge fund moguls Leon Black and Stephen Schwarzman.
"Job cuts, wage cuts, outsourcing, special tax breaks for the rich, elimination of pensions and benefits and the way connected insiders have benefitted from the economic destruction suffered by our communities didn’t come from nowhere: it’s the result of the actions of powerful men like Stephen Schwarzman and Leon Black," the report said.
"Black and Schwarzman are the billionaire Wall Street fund managers who’ve taken over Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, New York and driven down pay, wages and benefits for workers and their families over the past decade."
Hedge Clippers said since the company was sold:
"In 2009, Momentive slashed pay for production workers by 25 to 50 percent and out sourced dozens of jobs"
"In 2013, the company froze pensions for workers younger than 50."
"Now Momentive wants to slash health care coverage for active employees, and to eliminate all health and life insurance for retired workers, many of whom are suffering from job-related illnesses caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals. Meanwhile, these billionaire owners of the company have gotten enormously wealthy."
"Leon Black, the head of huge hedge fund Apollo Global Management (the majority owner of Momentive), has grown his personal wealth to $5.1 billion and bought a $50 million Manhattan mansion,Tom Cruise’s $40 million Beverly Hills estate, and a $16.5 million Miami condo to add to his 100-acre Westchester estate and his oceanfront compound in the Hamptons."
"Stephen Schwarzman, the head of giant private equity fund Blackstone Group (which owns a big chunk of Momentive) got even richer – his personal fortune is estimated at over $11.1 billion, and his personal pay last year was an astounding $811 million."