The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) says Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) violated federal labor law when it locked out 2,200 of its employees Aug. 15.
The federal agency notified United Steelworkers (USW) on Dec. 18 that it will issue a formal complaint against ATI, because its investigation found merit to the union’s charge that ATI didn’t bargain in good faith before — and after — it began the lockout.
[pullquote]We think now it’s up to $50-60 million, and the more they screw around, the bigger the settlement will be.” —USW International Vice President Tom Conway[/pullquote]Federal labor law requires union-represented employers to negotiate in good faith: They must demonstrate a sincere desire to reach agreement, and not just go through the motions. But that didn’t happen this time at ATI, which began planning for the lockout in January 2015, months before contract negotiations began. Instead, the union says, ATI hired outside consultants to recruit replacement workers, and forced union members to sit through mandatory-attendance meetings aimed at getting them to accept concessions.
Then on Aug. 6, ATI presented USW with a “last, best and final” contract offer, and demanded that the union accept it by Aug. 10. The offer would significantly cut health insurance benefits, end retiree health and life insurance benefits for new hires, replace the pension with a 401(k) for new hires, and give the company greater latitude to contract out work done by union members.
When USW didn’t comply with the ultimatum, the company locked out the workers at 12 ATI metal plants in six states, including 180 members of Local 7150 at the former Oremet Wah Chang titanium plant in Albany, Oregon.
When the NLRB’s formal complaint is issued, it will include a trial date for the case to be heard by a federal administrative law judge. The NLRB normally seeks a voluntary settlement which would include a remedy to the violation. In this case, the remedy would be to reimburse all 2,200 locked-out workers for any losses they’ve incurred since the beginning of the lockout, including wages and benefits — and to require the company to bargain in good faith.
“Under the law, they have to reinstate the status quo — put everybody back to work, and make them whole for their losses,” said USW International Vice President Tom Conway, who leads the union’s negotiations with ATI. “We think now it’s up to $50-60 million, and the more they screw around, the bigger the settlement will be.”
On Dec. 28, USW announced that the NLRB will also be issuing a separate but related complaint against ATI: That the company unlawfully interfered with its workers’ right to unionize at an ATI Cast Products plant in Albany, Oregon. USW has made three attempts to organize the nonunion plant, which ATI acquired when it purchased Ladish Co. in 2010. During the most recent campaign, managers unlawfully threatened job loss and plant closure if the plant were to unionize, and made the case that it would be futile for workers to join the union. Conway said ATI management’s unlawful conduct made it impossible for the union campaign to go forward.