Ratification Considered Likely At USX
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Leaders of the largest United Steelworkers local union at USX Corp. say a cost-cutting contract will probably be ratified over their objections when votes from 33,000 workers, idle for six months, are counted Saturday.
″People are a little embittered and angered,″ said Art Garrison, a Local 1014 member at Gary, Ind., who chaired the local’s committee on outside contracting, the hottest issue in the steel industry’s longest work stoppage.
But the proposed four-year agreement probably will be passed ″simply because the higher echelon of the union is saying it’s the best they can do. That and the time we’ve been out. It’s just a lost cause,″ Garrison said. ″We’re even getting calls from the company predicting the outcome.″
Work stopped at the nation’s largest steelmaker Aug. 1 with the expiration of the union’s previous contract, which also reduced wages and benefits in recognition of depressed industry conditions.
Garrison said Local 1014 President Larry Regan, one of only four no votes out of 42 local union presidents who voted on the settlement Jan. 18, was told by a regional USX personnel manager that the contract would be ratified by a margin of 7-3.
″Can you imagine that?″ Garrison said.
After a week of marathon bargaining, the two sides agreed shortly after midnight Jan. 16 to a package that trades financial and manning concessions by the union for company assurances that it will curb its use of non-union labor.
Union negotiators predicted ratification. They estimate the deal would save USX about $300 million over four years in part through an immediate $2.40 to $2.50 cut in hourly pay and benefits. That sacrifice will shrink to around $2 per hour in the last two years of the contract, according to the union.
The company would also have approval to eliminate 1,346 jobs through smaller crews and work rule changes, but USW negotiators said those losses would be recouped as laid off members are recalled to replace non-union contractors.
″That’s the main issue right there,″ said Mike Prediger of Elizabeth, Pa., a crane repairman who is convinced his 18-year mill career at the Irvin Works near Pittsburgh would soon be over without protection against outside contractors.
″If I got a job, I’m happy,″ he said. ″I wasn’t worried too much about the wages and what they were taking from us. It was this contracting-out language.″
″That’s why this lasted as long as it did,″ said Joe McKito of Donora, a 19-year veteran of the Irvin Works.
″I got in a lot of fights with a lot of people. People say ... ‘Why don’t you guys go back to work?’ I said what’s the sense of going back to work if you have to sign a contract that’s going to give away your job?″
USX officials say that if the contract is ratified, work will resume as soon as orders warrant. The work stoppage is now six months old.
Approximately 22,000 union members who were on the job when the old contract expired and 11,000 who were laid off were eligible to participate in the secret-ballot vote conducted by mail over the last two weeks.