On the Picket Line

UAW strikers win first contract at Illinois steel plant

By Naomi Craine
May 22, 2023

BEDFORD PARK, Ill. — “After 65 days on the picket line, workers at Metal-Matic [here] have ratified their first union contract, winning equal pay for equal work, and an end to major pay disparities,” the United Auto Workers union announced April 28.

The 140 workers at the steel tube plant voted to join UAW Local 588 in June 2021. “These UAW members held a 24/7 picket line for two months through torrential rain, hurricane-force winds and bitter cold,” UAW Region 4 Director Brandon Campbell said in a statement. “They showed us all the power of solidarity.”

“It was definitely worth going on strike,” Marco Aguileta, who has worked there for 26 years, told the Militant by phone May 3. “Now the union is set in stone, we have it as long as we want it.” He said they will get annual raises and a pay scale that closes the gap more quickly between new hires and longtime workers. The bosses had demanded workers take a pay cut if they didn’t cross-train on more machines.

Aguileta said they also pushed back the company’s attempt to greatly increase deductibles in their health insurance. “We got a few little extra things, like doubling the boot allowance,” he said. “And we went back to the old vacation system,” explaining the bosses had recently started cutting vacation time if workers had “too many” absences.