Locked-out workers in six states will return to work March 14 under a settlement between United Steelworkers of America (USW) and Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI). The two sides reached a tentative four-year agreement Feb. 22, and members were set to vote on it March 1. ATI locked out the 2,200 workers Aug. 15, 2015 — after USW didn’t schedule a vote on the company’s final offer by a deadline the company set. The lockout included about 180 workers at ATI’s Oremet titanium plant in Albany, Oregon.
The settlement came 10 days after a National Labor Relations Board complaint that the company didn’t bargain in good faith, and thus its lockout was illegal. The complaint was scheduled to be heard by a judge May 23, and if upheld, would have made the company liable for back pay — minus any wages or unemployment insurance compensation workers received since the lockout began. But USW agreed to withdraw charges as part of the settlement. Under the settlement:
- New hires won’t be eligible for pension benefits; instead ATI will contribute $2.65 an hour to a 401(k) plan.
- New hires won’t get retiree health insurance, but will get an extra 50 cents to their 401(k)
- ATI may use outside contractors, but assures USW that it won’t result in any active employee losing employment.
- ATI will pay 90 percent of health insurance premiums, down from 100 percent previously.
- Health insurance benefits remain the same.
- Workers will get a $3,500 signing bonus spread out over four years.
- A $1.50-an-hour quarterly bonus is eliminated; instead base pay is raised $1 an hour and ATI will contribute 50 cents an hour to a retiree medical fund.
- ATI will reinstate a profit-sharing plan; workers would get from 2 to 6.5 percent of profits each quarter, up to a cap of $3.75 million.
- All replacement workers hired by ATI will be let go.
ATI also increased a company-paid supplemental unemployment insurance benefit for workers who are laid off when a plant is temporarily idled. That may end up being used immediately for some workers: Two plants in Pennsylvania will remain idled for now, and other plants will be reducing the workforce. All workers will be laid off their first day back, with most then recalled immediately.
In Albany, 130 workers will return, and 30 will be laid off; 12 others retired since the lockout. Picketing will continue until workers are back on the job.
The lockout prompted lawmakers in Oregon and Massachusetts to introduce bills extending unemployment six months for workers locked out in a labor dispute. In Oregon, the bill was heading toward passage as of press time.
UPDATE 3/2/16: USW reports that members ratified the agreement by a 5-1 margin.