Workers at Portsmouth Cleanup Site Ratify First Contract

Thirteen Local 689 industrial hygiene technicians and industrial hygiene respirator facility technicians ratified their first contract Aug. 27 at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site in Piketon, Ohio.

The two-year agreement will expire August 2022 when the contract ends for the larger professional & technical (P&T) unit that includes the 13 new members.

“Now, they have representation if they have a concern or a grievance,” said Local 689 P&T Unit Vice President Creshanna Williams. “If they have a safety issue, there are health and safety representatives who can help them. They have representation from stewards and from me. Those are some of the most positive things of becoming part of the unit.”

Members received an immediate wage increase ranging from 4% to 7% to bring their pay up to scale, and the member who already earned a higher wage received a lump sum instead, Williams said. Next August, they all will get a 2.25% wage increase.

Everyone received a $1,000 signing bonus, and has a pathway for job progression with the requirements for advancement explained.

While their health care and retirement benefits mirror those of salaried non-union employees, the new group has additional benefits now, such as funeral leave, paid shower time, a grievance process to resolve contractual issues, subcontractor language that helps secure the group numbers at ratification and accretion into the unit in the event of downsizing or loss of personnel through attrition.

Industrial hygiene technicians (IHTs) monitor for biological, physical and chemical hazards like hydrogen fluoride, lead, asbestos and beryllium in the workplace.

Industrial hygiene respirator facility technicians (RFTs) maintain, issue and inspect respiratory protection for the site, which plant employees use to protect against biological, physical and chemical hazards in the workplace.

The P&T unit also includes radiological control technicians, industrial hygiene associates, non-destructive assay technicians, buyers, work control planners and non-destructive assay specialists. The entire unit has 173 workers.

Williams, who is an industrial hygiene associate, said that when some IHT and RFT contractors transferred to the site’s main contractor, Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth LLC (FBP), and became employees, they expressed interest in being part of the P&T unit.

FBP verbally recognized the 13-member group in September 2018, and formal recognition came when the International and FBP signed a letter of agreement in February 2019.

In January 2019, Local 689 and FBP discussed what each side wanted in a contract and how negotiations should proceed. Formal bargaining started October 2019, and both sides reached a tentative agreement Aug. 20.

Williams said the process took a while because both the local and FBP had negotiations occurring with other contractors at the site.

“I was very pleased with the negotiations,” Williams said. “They (the new group) are very good employees, and I think they will be good union members.”

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222