PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Locked out at ATI and working without a contract at U.S. Steel, members of the United Steelworkers took center stage at this year’s Labor Day parade, enlisting the help of Vice President Joe Biden.
The domestic steel industry says it needs to reduce costs to deal with slumping demand and foreign competition.
But the steelworkers are hunkering down for a long battle.
There’s been little or no movement at ATI since about 2,200 workers were locked out on Aug. 15 when the union wouldn’t agree to reductions in health care benefits and benefits for future employees.
“They’re just waiting to see if they can break our backs,” said Bruce Altmeyer, a steelworker.
“I’ve got to keep my members focused for the long haul. We’re going to last one day longer than ATI,” added Fran Araba, a union leader.
Negotiations are also stalled between the USW and U.S. Steel, which reportedly no longer wants to pay overtime and will only guarantee a 32-hour work week.
For now, workers in Clairton, Braddock and West Mifflin will continue working without a contract, but union leaders say they’re ready for a breakdown in talks. .
“We’re in it as one unit and we’re ready to do whatever it takes,” said John Grunsky, a union leader.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the rest of labor stands with the steelworkers.
“The solidarity is what is going to prevail, and the rest of the labor movement will stand shoulder to shoulder with them until they get a fair contract from both of those companies,” he said.
It’s an impressive show of solidarity, but even with support of the White House, the Steelworkers Union faces an uphill battle in the coming months testing the strength of their union.