International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Bob Martinez will join striking workers for a rally Friday in Valparaiso, as a labor dispute drags on for a fourth week.

More than 100 members of Machinists Union Local 2018 have been striking for more than a month over out-of-pocket health care costs and pay at the Regal Beloit factory, which manufactures bearings for the aerospace industry, including for military helicopters.

“The company has chosen not to negotiate,” lead negotiator and IAM Local 2018 Business Representative David Gault said. “They would rather try to starve the members and their families. But the men and women of IAM Local Lodge 2018 continue to stand strong. The community has stepped up to help support the members with donations of nonperishable goods and food.”

The rally at the factory at 2300 Evans Ave. will take place at 11 a.m. Friday.

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Robert Cherry, Regal Beloit vice president for business development and investor relations, said the company hoped to bring the workers back through the collective bargaining process but implemented a contingency plan of bringing in temporary workers to keep filling customer orders.

Wisconsin-based Regal Beloit is a "leading manufacturer of electric motors, electrical motion controls, power generation and power transmission products serving markets throughout the world." The Valparaiso plant was formerly McGill Manufacturing, which once was one of Porter County's largest employers with 1,500 employees and annual sales of $50 million. It made bearings for tanks during wartime.

Workers there, who voted 99-5 for a strike last month, had asked for 75-cent-per-hour raises and an out-of-pocket maximum of $15,000 for health care coverage, saying their out-of-pocket expenses for health care were far too high and contributing to high turnover at the plant. Employees said they haven't gotten a decent raise to cover cost-of-living increases in years and had just hoped for a modest increase.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.