Ninth Circuit Appeals Court again Affirms that ASARCO Must Pay Copper Price Bonus

CONTACT: Manny Armenta, (520) 465-3617, marmenta@usw.org; Tony Montana, (412) 562-2592, tmontana@usw.org 

The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – for the second time this year – has affirmed Senior U.S. District Judge Stephen M. McNamee’s March 3, 2016, decision to enforce an arbitrator’s order for ASARCO, LLC, to pay millions of dollars as well as post-judgement interest, which continues to accrue, to hundreds of workers hired after June 30, 2011. 

The eight international unions which represent more than 2,000 hourly workers at five ASARCO locations in Arizona and Texas have been fighting to collect the award since December 2014, when an arbitrator originally determined that the company wrongly withheld quarterly bonuses based on the price of copper from newer employees. 

On June 19, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued its first decision affirming Judge McNamee’s order to enforce the arbitrator’s award, which ASARCO challenged. In today’s ruling, the Ninth Circuit withdraws its previous judgement but maintains that the arbitrator's decision was correct and proper and that the federal courts must defer to it, refuting the company’s arguments to the contrary. 

USW District 12 Director Bob LaVenture said that the company’s attempt to divide the union membership by withholding bonus payments from newer hires backfired and became an issue that united workers in solidarity within and between ASARCO locations. 

“Our struggle for fairness and justice for all ASARCO employees did not begin and will not end in court,” LaVenture said. “It begins and ends with workers joining together to force management to respect our unions and obey our contract.” 

The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel heard arguments in the case on Nov. 16, 2017, and has now ruled twice in favor of the union workers. 

“Although management may attempt to further delay or postpone paying the millions of dollars it owes to them, we are committed to fighting for justice for these workers and their families,” LaVenture said. “ASARCO cannot hide forever, and its debts will only continue to grow until they are settled once and for all.” 

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations. 

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