PITTSBURGH, Aug. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) union today condemned the decision by specialty metals company Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) to lock out 2,200 workers at 12 plants in six states.
"It's outrageous that the company has chosen this destructive path, but it is clear that ATI intended to lock these workers out since day one," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "From the beginning, the company has bargained in bad faith to dictate the terms of an agreement."
The lockout is the culmination of a months-long campaign by ATI management to force workers to accept draconian and unnecessary concessions. It is spending millions of dollars on bringing outsiders to replace skilled and experienced union members even though the union has never threatened to strike or even conducted a strike authorization vote.
In fact, the USW bargaining committee voted on Aug. 10 to return to their plants and hold confidential consultations with their members to determine whether to hold ratification votes on management's offer. That democratic process has been needlessly interrupted by the company's actions.
Starting in January—months before contract negotiations between the USW and ATI began—ATI management hired outside consultants to recruit replacement workers and forced union members to sit through captive-audience meetings aimed at intimidating them into accepting concessions.
For a company so fixated on cost-savings, ATI's plan to toss more money down the drain paying replacement workers and security personnel, in addition to creating ill-will with their employees and in the community, is foolish.
The union has made steady progress since bargaining for a new contract began in May. Throughout the process the union presented ATI management with proposals that would save the company millions of dollars, but management consistently rebuffed the union's efforts to work with the company to address challenges in the market.
On Aug. 4, the USW presented management with a proposal that made substantial movement in the company's direction. The union's offer included tens of millions of dollars in savings on benefits costs.
Instead of seriously responding to the union's proposal, ATI on Aug. 6 presented the USW bargaining committee with a "last, best and final" contract offer and threatened to lock out its work force if the union failed to present the offer to its members for ratification by 3 p.m. Aug. 10, just four days later.
The bargaining committee met to discuss the company's proposal and made the decision to return to their local unions to discuss the details of the company's offer with the rank-and-file membership. The company was informed that the process would be completed as "expeditiously as possible."
"We recognize that we are facing a difficult environment, but the way to address these problems is by working together, not by creating arbitrary deadlines and issuing threats," said USW International Vice President Tom Conway, who chairs the ATI bargaining committee.
Rather than accepting the union's offer to continue working under the terms of the old contract while negotiations continue, ATI moved to lock their employees out of their jobs.
"We have taken this process seriously, and the company has instead chosen to engage in bad-faith bargaining and to derail our union's democratic process through this announcement," Conway said.
"We remain ready and willing to bargain toward an agreement that is fair to both sides, and today we informed the company that our June 30 offer to remain at work while negotiations continue still stands," Conway stressed.
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors, including 2,200 members at 12 ATI locations. For more information: www.usw.org and www.usw.org/act/campaigns/ati-bargaining.
Jess Kamm, 412-562-2446
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)