Metro-East News

More steel workers working without contracts

Steel workers in Madison County are wondering about their fate as they work without contracts with no signs of new ones coming anytime soon.

The contract at U.S. Steel Corp. in Granite City expired July 6 and workers at Alton Steel Inc. have been without a contract since Aug. 20.

Chris Montine, who is one of approximately 250 steelworkers at Alton Steel, has worked at the Alton steel plant since 2005 and drives 40 minutes to the steel mill each day from his home in Wilsonville, located in Macoupin County. He said the company has proposed raises, but only for employees’ deductibles, not pay increases, which he said would drastically impact him and his co-workers.

He said management has not been open to further negotiations and have walked away from the table.

“The company is not negotiating in good faith,” Montine said. “It seems all they want to do is take, take, take and no give. They’ve quit talking to us, and they’re not negotiating with us.”

Alton Steel CEO Jim Hrusovsky said, “In the past several weeks, (Alton Steel Inc.) and the union have had productive negotiations with numerous issues addressed and resolved. Last week, we reached a point where both parties decided to take some time to evaluate their positions, with the expectation that negotiations would resume in the near future. The contract is still in effect and (Alton Steel Inc.) continues to run its operations and ship product to our customers.”

In Granite City, steel workers employed at U.S. Steel Corp., represented by United Steelworkers, have been meeting with company managers in Pittsburgh since July 6 to negotiate a new contract. Their contract is set to expire Sept. 1.

The sticking points are over wages, pension and health benefits. The steel mill’s 1,500 union members are considering a potential strike if they do not get a suitable contract.

U.S. Steel has declined to comment about the matter during negotiations.

At Alton Steel, the United Steel Workers Local 3643 President Terry Wooden said the company’s proposed three-year contract, which has no pay raises, increases employees’ pension contributions and passes on additional costs to employees for their insurance coverage, is too drastic for union members to accept.

“It would reduce the quality of life for our workforce,” Wooden said. “So we’re far apart on some things, and I don’t know where they will take us. We are hopeful the company would sit down and negotiate a fair and equitable contract.”

Wooden also said Alton Steel laid off about 60 workers last spring as the steel industry has slowed. But he also believes the privately owned Alton steel mill has remained profitable for the last four years because the employees’ 401(k) profit-sharing has performed very well in that time.

In the meantime, Wooden and the union waits for their next meeting with management.

“We’re willing and ready to sit down at the table anytime to get an agreement,” he said. “The membership will be accessible.”

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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