Aluminum industry workers in the United States edged closer to walking off the job this week following strike authorization votes at Alcoa and Arconic plants in Massena, NY and Warrick County, IN.
The United Steel Workers, the union representing the aluminum workers, has been in negotiations with the two companies for months, with pay and health insurance the top issues. However, talks stalled earlier this month in the face of corporate demands for unreasonable concessions and clawbacks. The existing contract expired on May 15.
“Management should understand by now that we are determined to negotiate fair agreements and nothing less,” USW International Vice President Tom Conway said in a statement. “Our members at Alcoa create tremendous value and have earned and deserve a contract that recognizes their contributions to the company’s continued success.”
Workers in Massena voted to authorize strike action last week, and the Warrick County workers followed this week, to force recalcitrant management negotiators back to the table. “Listen, we’re not going in there wanting to strike,” United Steelworkers Local 420 president Mark Goodfellow said in Massena. “Or any kind of work stoppage at all, period. We want to continue to negotiate.”
Local 104 President Chris Horn said that the union still hopes to resolve outstanding contract issues without a strike but notes that, with a unanimous strike vote, workers are more than prepared to walk off the job, if necessary. “We are organized and mobilized and will not allow Alcoa to bully us into accepting anything less than the fair contracts we have earned and deserve,” Horn said in a statement. “These are jobs worth fighting for, and we intend to keep it that way.”
Alcoa says that the existing contract has been extended to give both sides more time to negotiate a new agreement.
Seeking to avoid a shutdown, Alcoa announced on Wednesday that it was willing to extend the expired contract to allow for further negotiations, but did not signal a return to the negotiating table. “The existing contract was extended to give more time for both the union and Alcoa to negotiate a new labor agreement,” Alcoa management said in a statement. “Our employees continue to report to work as normal, and we are ready to resume contract talks soon for a fair and competitive agreement that positions Alcoa and our employees for success.”
With unanimous strike votes in hand, however, the union representing Alcoa and Arconic workers can call for a strike at any time.