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(PITTSBURGH) -- Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union at specialty steelmaker Allegheny Technologies Inc. ratified a four-year contract that, pending approval from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), ends a six-month illegal lockout imposed by the company on 2,200 workers at 12 facilities in six states.
USW members voted by a 5-1 margin to approve a tentative agreement reached on Feb. 22, 10 days after the NLRB filed a lengthy unfair labor practice complaint against ATI alleging that the lockout it began on Aug. 15, 2015, was illegal and that the company bargained in bad faith.
“The strength and solidarity of our union paid off with a fair contract that contains virtually none of the drastic concessions ATI sought to arbitrarily impose,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.
The contract protects retirement benefits and maintains affordable, quality health care for active workers and retirees. It protects union jobs against outside contractors, maintains the grievance procedure and other important contract language, and introduces a new profit sharing system that allows USW members a bigger share in ATI’s future success.
ATI launched a well-prepared, well-funded campaign of intimidation and manipulation, recruiting scabs and security guards for the lockout, before bargaining even started in the spring of 2015.
Talks opened with a jaw-dropping list of demands from ATI that included 145 deep and permanent concessions that would have erased decades of progress, significantly increased health care costs for retirees and created an unacceptable and divisive two–tier benefit system.
After weeks of negotiations, ATI in August demanded that the union vote on a last, best and final concessionary offer. Before a vote could be held, ATI locked the workers out of their jobs on Aug. 15.
“The company’s plan from day one was to starve us out, to push the lockout into February when unemployment benefits would begin to run out and then force us to accept its insulting ‘best, last and final’ offer,” said USW International Vice President Tom Conway, who led the union bargaining team. “Instead we stood strong on the picket lines, in our communities and at the bargaining table.”
Gerard and Conway said it was time for USW members to return to work and begin the process of healing from the pain imposed on them and their families during six months of an unnecessary lockout.
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors, including 2,200 members at 12 ATI locations.
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