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With UE, Real Bargaining
Returns to LaSalle Steel


Contract Settled!

Local 783 Pres. Zedrick Rickie readily admits that the recently ratified contract with Niagara LaSalle contains little that really stands out. What’s truly outstanding is that actual bargaining took place.

That’s a big change from three years ago.

The Niagara Corp. purchased the LaSalle steel mill in 1997 and instituted a drastic change in relations with the Progressive Steelworkers of Hammond, a long-established independent union. The company forced a strike the following  year. The Progressive Steelworkers decided to settle after nine weeks on the picket line, faced with ever-worsening proposals on the table and more than 100 replacement workers in the mill.

"They took a lot away from us. Some of our people lost their jobs," says Rickie. "We lost our butts, big time." The contract imposed a two-tier wage system, shrunk the number of job classifications by nearly 75 percent, reduced vacation time and replaced wage increases with cash payments in the second and third years.

The Progressive Steelworkers voted to affiliate with UE on June 25, 2000. Negotiations this year had a different feel. In this round, Pres. Rickie said, Niagara officials "actually talked to us, unlike last time."


The company began the talks by presenting 129 deletions from the current contract, 159 insertions and no improvements. However, the company attorney discovered he could not impose his program on the new UE local. The final agreement contains no concessions, including no loss in insurance benefits.

"We think the UE helped us a whole lot," Pres. Rickie says. "We didn’t get a lot, but we got more than expected. Taking everything into consideration, the real bad business conditions in the steel industry right now, the customers we lost during the strike, with the help of UE we came out really pretty doggone good."

The contract calls for wages increases of 25 cents each year in a four-year contract, an increase of $1 in the pension multiplier in third year, and an upgrade for millwrights.


The union negotiated a number of language improvements, including a requirement that the company meet with the union when a new job is created to explain the job and the rate of pay. If Local 783 disagrees with the company’s plans it has the right to propose alternatives or file grievances. The union had lost a method of evaluating jobs in the 1998 strike.

Local 783 also improves transfer language to prevent the practice followed by some supervisors of removing workers from their jobs in violation of the agreement. Contract language that would allow for a severance payout is broadened.

The parties agreed to eliminate the "sub pay" given to employees working less than 32 hours per week or on layoff; however, the $129,000 in the fund will be divided and distributed equally among union members.

The Local 783 negotiating committee, in addition to Pres. Rickie, consisted of Vice Pres. Alan Pearson, Rec. Sec. Dennis McNeiley, Treas. Joseph Serbentas, Fred Rickie and Joe O’Brien. They were assisted by Intl. Rep. Dennis Painter.

UE News - 08/23/01 - Web

Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives ->Article

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