Federal complaint alleges ATI lockout of workers illegal
Allegheny Technologies Inc. was served Thursday with a federal complaint alleging the company’s six-month-long lockout of union workers is illegal, a move that was made as the sides work to end the labor dispute.
The National Labor Relations Board, which declined to make the complaint public, said a hearing on the United Steelworkers allegations of unfair labor practices against ATI was scheduled for May 23 before an administrative law judge in Pittsburgh.
Union officials declined to comment, saying they were still reviewing the complaint.
Downtown-based ATI said the NLRB’s case was “not supported by the facts or the law,” and that the steelmaker would defend itself.
Setting a hearing date follows the December announcement by the labor board that its regional director in Pittsburgh had determined the steelmaker acted in bad faith by trying to force the union to accept contract concessions. The determination was viewed as a catalyst for the two sides returning to the bargaining table in early January.
ATI locked out about 2,200 USW members Aug. 15 after delivering a final contract offer that included cuts to union health care benefits and other concessions. After meeting briefly with a federal mediator in September, the sides didn’t talk for months.
Union and ATI negotiators met Thursday and discussed operations the company plans to idle, including its grain-oriented electrical steel plant in Gilpin where 360 USW members are locked out, the union said in a separate statement Thursday. That plant is expected to be temporarily shut down in April. About 250 union workers are locked out of ATI’s Midland plant, which was idled in January.
The sides planned to meet again Friday and discuss company proposals on contracting some work to outside companies and issues specific to local unions. ATI officials could not be reached for comment on the talks.
ATI is dealing with a severe downturn in the steel industry caused by slumping demand and high levels of cheap imports. The company has said it needs to lower costs to remain competitive. Union officials have said the company should not use a temporary downturn as an excuse to gut union benefits.
Alex Nixon is a Tribune-Review staff writer.