ATI and USW Agreement Still Shrouded in Secrecy, Vote Coming

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As we reported yesterday, the The United Steelworkers union has reached a tentative four-year agreement with Allegheny Technologies, Inc., after 2,200 workers were locked out more than six months ago.

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ATI confirmed the agreement but said little else in a statement that read, “Allegheny Technologies Incorporated confirmed today that it has reached a tentative agreement with the bargaining committee of the USW on a new contract covering over 2,000 employees at the company’s Flat Rolled Products business and other locations.”

Not Yet Approved

The specialty steelmaker also noted that voting on and ratification of the agreement could take two or more weeks. The lockout involved workers at 12 plants in 6 states. The agreement involve the union dropping a complaint before by the National Labor Relations Board, a USW spokesman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The USW, however, was already claiming a “victory” for the locked out workers.

“This is a tremendous victory for a very brave group of workers. They should be proud of this agreement, and of the resolve they demonstrated throughout this six-month ordeal,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard in a statement. “They showed us all the strength that we can have when we stand together in unflinching solidarity.”

ATI would like to get back to selling shipping stainless steel. Source Adobe Stock/Jovanning.

ATI would like to get back to selling shipping stainless steel. Source Adobe Stock/Jovanning.

Very little is known yet about the actual agreement other than its length (four years). USW VP Tom Conway, who was the union’s top negotiator, said, “It’s a good agreement. I am confident they will ratify, and I think our folks are anxious to put their lives back together again.”

Idled Operations

What will happen to operations that were idled during the lockout is also anyone’s guess. 270 Union workers at ATI’s Midland, Pa., plant — which the company had continued to operate with management and temporary employees before idling it last month — stand to lose their jobs if the plant stays on the commodity stainless sidelines.

The company has said the facility could remain idled for months until it can turn an acceptable profit as commodity stainless prices have fallen below ATI’s profitability threshold. ATI similarly announced plans to idle its Gilpin Township, Pa., GOES production facility in April, which had employed a similar number of union workers before it was staffed with replacements during the lockout. If ATI stays out of the GOES business then AK Steel will be the sole US producer of the important products used for electrical transmission.

ATI’s “last, best and final offer to the USW,”before the lockout, included, ”$4,500 in lump-sum payments over the four-year agreement and continued incentive programs for ATI Flat Rolled Products employees, who averaged $94,000 in earnings in 2014.”

The proposal also included what ATI characterized as “affordable solutions for continued family healthcare, at about half the cost that the average American worker pays.”

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The USW, at the time, did not agreed with ATI’s average earnings calculation and did not support giving new hires different benefits than employees who are grandfathered in under previous agreements, another sticking point between the union and the steelmaker.

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