U.S. Alcoa and Arconic Workers Voting to Strike

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 into manufactured 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 negotiations.

(Photos: USW Local 420A)

This article was published in

Number 21 - June 6, 2019

Article Link:
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


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