United Steelworkers union officials say Allegheny Technologies is making contingency staffing and security plans in case they fail to negotiate a new labor agreement to replace one that expires June 30.
USW headquarters officials last week told members that the Pittsburgh specialty metals producer has hired Strom Engineering, a Minnetonka, Minn., firm that helps companies with labor disputes, and Phillips Group, a security firm with a Pittsburgh office.
A four-year contract covering 2,300 workers at Allegheny Technologies plants in Brackenridge and elsewhere in the Alle-Kiski Valley and 150 workers at an Albany, Ore., plant, expires at the end of the month.
Union officials say the company proposed drastic changes to health care, compensation, work rules and other issues in an 11-page proposal submitted to the union June 3. The changes include eliminating two holidays and personal breaks as well as defining a normal work day as 12 hours.
“They want to delete everything in the contract we have fought 70 years for,” said Jeannie Nesbit, a former USW local official who retired from the Brackenridge plant three years ago. She described the company’s proposal as “over the moon.”
The contract deadline looms as the specialty metals producer ramps up production on a new, $1.2 billion rolling mill at Brackenridge. The new plant opens new, more lucrative markets to the company, which expects the more efficient equipment will generate annual savings of $150 million.
Pennsylvania and local officials enticed Allegheny Technologies to build the mill by offering the company years of freedom from paying state and local corporate income taxes and other taxes. USW members said they also sacrificed, at the company’s request, by regularly working 12- to 16-hour days to spare the company the expense of hiring new workers who could have faced layoffs once the plant was completed.
“Everybody was asked to sacrifice, and we all did,” said one Brackenridge union worker who asked not to be identified.
USW leaders have told workers to direct calls from the media to local union officials. USW Local 1196 president Fran Arabia and USW Local 1138 president Bill Galo did not return calls seeking comment.
Officials from USW headquarters declined to comment. Allegheny Technologies, Strom and Phillips did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment.
Metals industry analyst John Tumazos said the company needs concessions if it is to compete with imports as well as at least three U.S. mills that make similar products with modern equipment. None of those U.S. mills has retiree benefit obligations, past environmental issues or unions, Mr. Tumazos said.
He said what little money Allegheny has made in recent years was generated by its titanium and alloyed business. The Brackenridge workers and others covered by the contract work for the company’s flat-rolled unit, which has not done well because of slumping demand and competition, he said.
“Management is going to take a very hard line because they’re not making money,” Mr. Tumazos said.
USW workers do not see it that way. They point out that Allegheny shareholders rejected the company’s executive compensation plan because pay was excessive given the company’s performance.
Len Boselovic: email@example.com or 412-263-1941.