Conway Blasts ATI on NPR

International Vice President Tom Conway this week appeared on the NPR radio show On Point to discuss the ongoing Allegheny Technologies (ATI) lockout and how it reflects troubling trends in the American labor market.

ATI locked out 2,200 Steelworkers in six states this August after asking for big, unnecessary concessions including a four-year wage freeze, massive increases in health care costs and a two-tier retirement plan for future hires. While ATI insists these demands are strictly to stay competitive with China, it’s obvious this as an excuse for the company to try to gut the union during a temporary industry downturn.

“No one denies that we have a lot of pressure here from China, but their demands would reach into three decades from now,” Conway said. “They’ve just sort of got this in their head that ‘We now have this opportunity, we can’t let this crisis go unused, we’re going to blame it all on China and chase these wages down.’”

While middle class wages have remained stagnant for years, CEO wages have only skyrocketed. ATI’s own CEO Richard Harshman increased his pay by 70 percent last year at the same time the company is maintaining labor costs are too high. This, according to Conway, is plain corporate greed.

“We’re at a point where things need to come to some common sense,” Conway said. “These are people who work very hard, very, very long hours, week after week without a break, don’t see their families. And to think that he’s providing them something out of the goodness of his heart is just an arrogance that is unbelievable.”

Although the road ahead is long and challenging, Conway ultimately believes the union will prevail with solidarity in tow.

“Frankly, we’re going to win this thing. If the company thinks they’re going to break these people by treating them this way, they’re just mistaken.”

Click the link below to hear the conversation.

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