CHATSWORTH – More than 100 union workers are striking Rexam Beverage Can North America Co.’s plant here as part of a national strike involving 900 employees in eight states. In a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, United Steelworkers claims Rexam illegally negotiated with individual workers instead of with the union. “We deny those charges,” said Greg Brooke, a spokesman for Rexam. “Even though we’re in this strike situation, we are hopeful to resume discussions and end the strike as soon as possible.” The Chatsworth plant employs 105 union workers and makes about 5.5 million cans in 24 hours. Clients include Budweiser and Coke. A contract covering the workers expired Feb. 24 but was extended twice. Talks for a five-year contract broke down April 9 over health insurance. Rexam wants workers to contribute more to their health plans, from $8 a week to $21.50 a week in the first year, and to $26.50 and $31.50 each year after, said Mike Warner, president of USW Local 8433 in Chatsworth. “Rexam is saying they are in line with the rest of the industry,” Warner said. “But they are not even in line with the rest of their plants.” The union rejected two Rexam proposals before striking. On Thursday, 15 workers picketed the plant’s entrance on Prairie Street, carrying signs that read, “USW on strike against unfair labor practices at Rexam Local 8433.” Richard Sandoval, a mechanic at Rexam for 31 years, said he trains more young workers now than in years past because many move on after finding better-paying jobs. “It’s going to be hard to get new kids” if benefits drop, said Sandoval, 49, of Simi Valley. Miguel Sanchez, 32, of Highland Park cleaned machines at Rexam for 15 months at $15.95 an hour. He said company leaders don’t understand that workers deal with chemicals and high noise levels on the job. “They claim to see it through our eyes, but they don’t,” Sanchez said. “Everybody tries to do their job as best as possible.” Besides California, workers are striking plants in Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Pennsylvania and two in North Carolina. The union represents mechanics, forklift drivers, machine operators and electricians, among others. The last time USW picketed the Chatsworth plant, which was then owned by Schlitz Brewery Container, was May 1977, Warner said. The strike lasted 30 days. Rexam has 17 plants in the U.S. and 32 worldwide. The company is the world’s “leading manufacturer of beverage cans,” making more than 50 billion each year, according to its Web site. The company brought in workers from other plants after the strike started, but Brooke, the spokesman, indicated the Chatsworth plant was not running at full capacity. “We’re making up the production wherever we can,” he said. [email protected] (818) 713-3735160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!