U.S. Alcoa and Arconic Workers Voting to
Workers Defend Their Rights and Dignity Against Unacceptable Demands Which Favour Narrow Private Interests
Alcoa and Arconic workers rally in Massena, New York, May 14, 2019.
Workers at the May 25 mass family solidarity march in
support of locked out ABI workers In Trois-Rivières were pleased
to hear that members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 420A,
representing Alcoa and Arconic workers in Massena, New York were with
them on the march. Local 420A members reported that the day before,
May 24, they had voted overwhelmingly in favour of going on strike to
resist the concessions demanded by the same ownership gang as at ABI.
Since that time, U.S. Alcoa and Arconic workers have
held strike votes in many other locations. On May 31, United
Steelworkers' international website posted information that over 1,500
Alcoa workers have now voted to authorize strike actions at the
companies' facilities in Warrick, Indiana; Gum Springs, Arkansas; Point
Comfort, Texas; and Wenatchee, Washington. Meanwhile, 1,900 workers at
the Arconic plant in Bettendorf, Iowa have also voted for a strike
mandate and the workers at the Arconic plant in Lafayette, Indiana,
will vote on June 6. Overall, it is estimated that around 6,000 workers
are involved in this round of negotiations. The workers' collective
agreement expired on May 15 and workers have continued to work under
the terms and conditions of that contract since the USW and Alcoa and
Arconic agreed to a temporary extension. There are no negotiations at
this time between the union and the companies.
This is the first contract for these workers since
Arconic was formed following the split of Alcoa into two separate
entities in 2016. Alcoa retained the extraction and production of
bauxite and the production of alumina and primary aluminum while
Arconic focuses on the processing of aluminum and other light metals
products for the aerospace, automobile and other sectors. At the time
of the splitting of the company into two entities it was decided by the
companies and USW that there would be negotiations of a master
agreement for all the workers, while local issues would be negotiated
locally and local agreements implemented only when the master
agreement is concluded.
Workers report that Alcoa
and Arconic are demanding a whole set of anti-labour concessions in
virtually every aspect of the collective
agreement -- reduction of benefits, attacks on the defined benefits
pension plans of the workers, increased out-of-pocket health insurance
payments, elimination of health care coverage for retired workers not
yet eligible for federal Medicare, and more.
As an Alcoa worker in Massena writes on the local's
Facebook page, "We just want a fair wage that reflects the work we do.
We want affordable health care. And we want a sound pension plan to
help us after literally giving half our life to this company. The
smelter in the summertime is literally hell on earth. It's not easy. We
risk life and
limb daily. Not just anyone can walk in there and do it. There is a
high turnover rate in the smelter because it takes some badass men and
women to run it. If our health care is expensive and there is no
pension, would it be worth putting our bodies through it? [...] This is
hard on your body and swing shift is hard on your family. Reward your
people for that sacrifice don't penalize them by taking their pension.
And my personal favorite, am I willing to go on strike to get a FAIR
contract? You're damn right I am!!! I'm willing to stand up for what's
right and FAIR even if it makes me uncomfortable."
The response of Alcoa's executives to the workers'
concerns and demands is the same irresponsible neo-liberal claptrap
that is being thrown at the ABI workers and at workers in general under
the nation-wrecking anti-social offensive of the global monopolies and
the states they have at their disposal. "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," said an Alcoa spokesperson at the Warrick operations. Alcoa's
dictate is that workers do not have any claim by right to the social
wealth they create. They are supposed to line up behind whatever global
companies such as Alcoa define as "competitiveness" and "success." This
can even mean closures of whole facilities, smashing of unions and
collective agreements, or long lockouts like the one that is being
imposed on the ABI workers and their community.
The determination of the Alcoa U.S. workers to resist
extortion of anti-worker concessions is a sign of the militancy of
workers affirming that their dignity and rights and the dignity and
rights of their communities comes first and must be upheld in
This article was published in
Number 21 - June 6, 2019
U.S. Alcoa and Arconic Workers Voting to
Strike: Workers Defend Their Rights and Dignity Against Unacceptable Demands Which Favour Narrow Private Interests - Pierre Chénier