Steelworkers rally at ATI plant in Derry Township
Greg Fumea of Unity says he wants to return to work under a fair contract at Allegheny Technologies Inc.’s Derry Township steel mill, but he and about 120 workers there have been locked out since Aug. 15 in a bitter contract dispute over a $10,000 increase in health insurance premiums and reduction in hours.
Speaking Wednesday at a rally outside the plant gates along Route 981 that attracted by about 200 steelworkers, family members and fellow union members, Fumea said employees were willing to continue to work under the terms of the company’s contract that expired June 30. But ATI refused to budge from its last contract offer before the lockout, he said.
“It was so bad that we didn’t even bring it back for a vote. We just want to work for what we had. How in the hell can you base a life when you don’t know when you are going to have a paycheck,” said Fumea, 49, a member of United Steelworkers Local 1138-6.
The Pittsburgh-based specialty steel maker has mills in Harrison, Vandergrift, Gilpin, Rochester, Monaca, Midland and Washington in Western Pennsylvania.
The company locked out about 2,200 steelworkers at 12 plants in six states after negotiations stalled with the United Steelworkers. ATI has said it must cut costs to remain competitive in a steel industry buffeted by slow demand, low prices and imports.
Allegheny Technologies has been running plants with a salaried workforce. Daniel Greenfield, a spokesman for ATI, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Fumea, who has worked at the mill for 28 years, said the steelworkers understand the need to pay some of their health insurance premiums, but to pay $10,000 by the fourth year of the agreement was too much when the union was not seeking a wage hike.
“They are asking for too many concessions” while the union has been flexible in agreeing with pension changes for new employees and a wage freeze during the life of the pact, said Lou Chillinsky, president of the USW Local 1138-6 at ATI’s All-Vac plant.
The company needs to get back to the bargaining table, Chillinsky said. The last sessions with federal mediators in September in Pittsburgh proved fruitless.
“This is (long) enough. It’s got to be hurting the company,” Chillinsky said.
The lockout has been tough on families, says Sarah Braden of West Leechburg, whose husband, Alan, works at ATI’s Bagdad plant. She said she is concerned that health insurance coverage for her family, including three children, will expire on Nov. 30.
“The worst part of it is that the benefits will get cut. That’s very, very hard,” Braden said.
The hourlong rally was punctuated by steelworkers using a bullhorn to urge members to continue the fight. When a tractor-trailer attempting to leave the plant stopped at the edge of the rally, steelworkers draped a Solidarity banner across the front of the cab.
The crowd cheered when the driver got out of the vehicle and walked away.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or [email protected].