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National Labor Spotlight On Striking USW-Represented ATI Workers, Who Are ‘Holding The Line For Premium/Free’ Health Insurance

Published Thursday, June 17, 2021
by Peter Knowlton/
National Labor Spotlight On Striking USW-Represented ATI Workers, Who Are ‘Holding The Line For Premium/Free’ Health Insurance

Across the country, United Steelworkers (USW)-represented Workers employed at nine plants operated by Allegheny Technologies, Incorporated have been on Strike for the last 11 weeks.

The USW accuses ATI of Unfair Labor Practices (ULP), including bad faith bargaining and holding retiree benefits hostage for contract concessions.

Here’s what the ATI Workers want: Raises; Stop ATI from contracting out; Secure full funding of their retirement benefits; and to beat back management’s efforts to introduce health insurance premiums and a second tier of coverage for younger Workers.

ATI, headquartered in Pittsburgh, makes steel used in aerospace and defense, oil and gas, chemical processes and electrical energy generation.

Five years ago ATI locked its Union-represented Workers out for seven months, demanding major concessions on wages, pensions, and health insurance.

Workers fought off the bulk of those demands, though the company was able to shed future liability for the pension by replacing it with a 401(k) for anyone hired after 2015 - a huge cost shift to Workers that makes a decent retirement at age 65 unlikely for new hires.

There were 2,200 workers at 12 Unionized sites back then.

There are 1,300 at nine sites this time around.

Most of the shops are in areas still reeling from the deindustrialization of the ’80s and ’90s.

Five are in Western Pennsylvania - Canton Township, Brackenridge, Latrobe, Natrona Heights, and Vandergrift.

The others are in: Louisville, Ohio; Lockport, New York; East Hartford, Connecticut; and New Bedford, Massachusetts, where 60 Members are on Strike.

One of only a few remaining Union manufacturers in Southeast Massachusetts, ATI has long been seen as a place to earn decent pay and a respectable retirement.

Now, with the pension replaced by a 401(k) and after seven years of wage freezes, working at ATI - or in manufacturing generally - is not such a great deal anymore.

Factory work is now pretty much all Non-Union and most places pay less and provide fewer benefits than they did 20 years ago.

Plus, anyone who has worked in a factory knows the toll the work takes on your body and soul.

The camaraderie can be great, but the brutal pace of work in an unhealthy environment is unrelenting.

Your body slowly unravels and falls apart.

Now, ATI is demanding to gut the benefits of present and future Workers even further, which will further erode living standards.

To sell its offers, the company points to wage increases and lump sum payments - but, as the USW has pointed out, these are all based on savings generated from other concessionary proposals.

Meanwhile, the company has almost “a billion dollars in liquidity and more than half a billion dollars in the cash drawer,” according to a USW Strike Bulletin.

ATI’s three top executives made $22 million last year in salaries and an additional $17 million in bonuses.

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