WASHINGTON, Pa. — The strike by 1,300 United Steelworkers members against Allegheny Technologies Inc. heated up as the union categorically rejected the bosses’ ultimatum to swallow their concessionary offer by April 26 or face worse. The strike began March 30.
“The company demands that we accept a permanent, second tier of health insurance for new hires and establishing expensive premiums for current workers,” a union statement said after the company announced its threat. “ATI has been trying to divide and conquer the USW membership at our plants since locking us out in 2015 and probably longer. We have shown management at every step that our solidarity will not be broken.”
The day after the ultimatum expired, the union organized a solidarity motorcycle ride to visit the picket lines in Vandergrift, Latrobe, Washington and Brackenridge of 20 to 25 riders. This Militant worker-correspondent joined up with them.
Retiree Skip Longdon, former unit chair of Local 7139 here, rode a motorcycle with a sticker saying, “Thou Shalt Not Scab.” “A lot of guys on this ride are retirees, but our hearts are still at the plant, and we stand with the guys,” Longdon said. “We still go to the picket lines to help out in every way we can.”
When asked why he organized the bike ride, Keith Beavers, president of Local 1138 in Vandergrift, said, “We wanted to bring the guys together to do something positive to show solidarity.”
Beavers said anyone who wants to help can “come hang out at the picket lines, bring your family, friends, whoever, it’s that kind of support we need. Hanging out on the lines, talking with us about the issues and spreading the word is the most important — Solidarity.”
Bosses say workers have to give more
ATI spokeswoman Natalie Gillespie said the company’s old offer had “expired.” Their new offer, she said, among other things, will reduce a lump-sum payment in the first year from $4,000 to $2,500. And she said the union will have to back off on health care and job security. ATI recently announced they took in $693 million in the first three months of 2021.
“Each of our business units must earn more than its costs of capital on a stand-alone basis,” CEO Robert Wetherbee said. “The Specialty Rolled Products business has struggled to consistently meet this profitability threshold for some time. … So we’re decisively taking the actions necessary to fix it.”
While the company says they’ll offer some wage increases, “we only get these raises if we agree to take concessions in other places,” USW negotiating committee member Randy Denman Jr. from the plant said in a statement given to me. “I believe this contract will destroy our union, cost us our health care and retirees their health care.”
Organize solidarity with the ATI strikers! Send messages of support or strike fund contributions to USW Local 7139 at 1505 Jefferson Ave., Washington, PA 15301, or USW Local 1196 at 1080 Brackenridge Ave., Brackenridge, PA 15014.