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Workers Strike at N.Y. Steel Plant

October 1, 1997

GEDDES, N.Y. (AP) _ ``No Deal, No Steel″ was the call Wednesday as nearly 700 workers walked off the job at Crucible Specialty Metals in protest of a company proposal to cut pensions for new employees.

The United Steelworkers of America, which represents 673 of the 800 workers at the plant, chose to strike when their contract expired at midnight Tuesday. They are protesting a company proposal to no longer offer new employees a company-paid pension or retiree health benefits.

``The future generations that are going to come here to work, they’re going to be with no pension, no benefits. That doesn’t look right,″ said Tom Santmyer, a millwright who has been with the company for 42 years. ``It’s not good. Where you gonna go without a pension plan?″

Working in four-hour shifts, about 30 Crucible workers braved bone-chilling temperatures and a cold rain as they circled along State Fair Boulevard while early-morning rush hour drivers honked in support on the way by.

``It’s not right for the younger people that will be coming into this plant,″ said Bill Finnigan, who represents clerical workers for the union.

About 20 people are hired each year to replace workers who retire.

Crucible, which has operated in the Syracuse suburb of Geddes since 1876, and its workers have had a history of difficult contract negotiations in recent years. The union has struck the company three times in the last 11 years, including a seven-week strike in 1989.

Crucible President David Yates said the company simply cannot afford pensions for new employees. Crucible officials said they would be interested in setting up a committee to look at some kind of fund for new employees, such as a 401(k) program.

Crucible’s existing pension plan has been underfunded for years, Yates said. The union has estimated the employee pension plan is 71 percent funded, while management’s pension plan is 91 percent funded.

About 150 management personnel were working in place of the striking steelworkers. Operations were not expected to be affected until January, if the strike lasts that long.

A vote on the company’s contract offer is scheduled for Friday. Union members have vowed not to accept it.

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