April 2, 2010 Volume 111 Number 7

McMinnville Steelworkers give up raise to extend contract

In what may be seen as a sign of the times, Steelworkers in McMinnville voted March 22 to give up a scheduled pay raise in order to extend their union contract by one year. 

Joe Munger, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 8378, said it was the union’s idea to go to management of Cascade Steel Rolling Mills with the proposal. The 3.5 percent raise was to take effect April 1, and the contract was scheduled to expire April 1, 2011. 

Munger said the union has little expectation the economy will have recovered by then, and it would be a bad time to be bargaining a new contract: 120 members have been laid off since December 2008, and the plant’s workforce is down to 280. 

Cascade Steel Rolling Mills melts scrap metal to produce rebar and other products used in construction. If it’s running, it means there’s demand for construction materials. Munger pays attention to the construction market, and keeps an eye on housing starts, scrap and finished product prices to see if there’s hope on the horizon. Right now prospects continue to look pretty bleak.

Extending the contract to April 1, 2012, means members will have the security of employer-paid full-family health insurance, a defined benefit pension plan, and other union benefits at current levels. Wages at the plant average $20 an hour.

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