The United Steelworkers union announced Friday that it will begin a strike at Allegheny Technologies Inc. next week.
The union said it informed ATI that it will begin a strike over what it calls unfair labor practices starting at 7 am Tuesday.
“We have sent the notice to ATI to ensure an orderly and safe shutdown of equipment and facilities,” the union said in a bargaining bulletin.
ATI spokeswoman Natalie Gillespie said the company is “incredibly disappointed” that USW-represented employees chose to strike.
“Our latest proposal increases wages and continues premium-free health care for our employees at a time when we are losing money after one of the worst years in company history,” he said. “As we have said before, we are committed to rewarding the hard work of our people. At the same time, we need to have a competitive cost structure that supports this business and our investment in the long term. “
After the strike begins, Gillespie said ATI will restart critical operations using salaried employees and interim replacement workers.
“We are committed to serving our customers with the least disruption possible,” he said.
ATI will likely be able to keep its hot rolling and processing facilities running with salaried workers, said industry analyst John Tumazos, a Wilkinsburg native and owner and CEO of Very Independent Research in New Jersey. He said the company has already gotten rid of most of its labor-intensive plants.
“There are certain things they make at Brackenridge that are very high-value products, like titanium. So they will probably try to launch their most profitable products, ”he said.
Noting that ATI reported losing $ 1.12 billion in the last three months of 2020, Tumazos said: “Some of its plants could lose less money on strike than in operation. Not that they did well.
“They are already losing their shirts. Some of their facilities would be better idle than in operation, “he said.
A strike is more likely to benefit competitors from ATI Acerinox, based in Spain and with facilities in Kentucky, and Outokumpu, based in the United Kingdom and operating in Alabama, Tumazos said. No company is unionized, he said.
“It’s not really ATI’s fault that the competitors are mainly non-union mills,” Tumazos said. “The steel workers union is basically demanding higher wages and lower productivity than the much newer plants in Kentucky and Alabama that are not unionized.
“The big winners are Kentucky and Alabama companies, while the union and ATI hurt each other.”
In the vote that ended on March 5, 95% of the 1,300 USW members at nine ATI facilities authorized a possible strike against ATI. Union members demonstrated outside the ATI facility in Harrison on March 16.
The last contract between ATI and the union, approved in 2016 after a six-month lockout, expired at the end of February after an agreed one-year extension.
There has not been a strike against ATI since 1994. Local 1196 President Todd Barbiaux, a 33-year-old employee, said one lasted 69 days. Local 1196 represents about 450 workers at ATI’s Brackenridge plant in Harrison.
“It is very unfortunate,” he said of the upcoming strike. “At any level of work stoppage, nobody really wins. We will not allow the company to take away our jobs. “
The union recommended that employees remove personal items from ATI facilities between now and the scheduled start of the strike.
USW International Vice President David McCall, who chairs the union’s negotiations with ATI, said the union is prepared to meet with management “all day, every day, if it helps us reach a fair agreement.”
“We will continue to negotiate in good faith and we strongly urge ATI to start doing the same,” he said.
Gillespie said the company is committed to going ahead with negotiations “in order to reach agreements that benefit all parties.”
“We also remain dedicated to serving our customers without interruption and will continue to operate safely in the manner necessary to meet our commitments,” he said.
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