With UE, Real Bargaining
Returns to LaSalle Steel
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
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
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
"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
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