USW Secures Funding from Century Aluminum for Retiree Benefits in Ravenswood, W.Va.

Contact: Joe Stuligross, 412-562-2526. 

PITTSBURGH – The United Steelworkers (USW) today announced that Century Aluminum of West Virginia has agreed to end years of litigation and fund health care benefits for retirees of its closed aluminum smelter in Ravenswood, W.Va.

The settlement, dated Feb. 9, is subject to court approval.

“This settlement is a testament to the solidarity and hard work of USW retirees who never gave up trying to win back benefits earned over a lifetime of hard work, “ said USW International Vice President Tom Conway. “This would not have happened without the retirees who made their voices heard and the union that stood behind them during a long and difficult struggle.”

If the court approves, Century will pay $23 million into a trust fund that will provide reimbursement for some past retiree medical costs, and assistance with future retiree costs.

An estimated 758 retirees, spouses or surviving spouses will benefit from the USW/Century Aluminum Retires Health and Welfare Trust, also known as a voluntary employees’ beneficiary association, or VEBA.

Retirees from the plant began receiving medical insurance benefits in 1959 from Kaiser Aluminum. Those benefits continued through different owners until Century began to eliminate them in 2010.

Century idled the Ravenswood smelter in February 2009 amid the recession and falling worldwide aluminum prices. In January 2010, Century unilaterally ended health-care coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees. The company dropped younger retirees in 2011.

The USW and representative retirees filed a lawsuit seeking benefit reinstatement immediately after Century moved to cut retiree benefits.

The smelting complex was declared permanently closed in 2015. The property has since been sold to a developer with plans to tear down the facility and redevelop the 1,800-acre site.

The USW is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments and agencies.

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