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USW contemplates possibility of strike or lockout on September 1

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With its current three-year contract with ArcelorMittal set to expire on Saturday, Sept. 1, the United Steelworkers (USW) is saying that--given the company’s unacceptable concessionary contract proposal--a strike or lockout “is a very real possibility.”

But one which the USW “will do everything we can to avoid,” the union said in a communique released just before deadline today and entitled “What Could Happen on Sept. 1?”

The USW enumerates four possible scenarios, should the union and ArcelorMittal prove unable to negotiate a contract before Sept. 1:

--An agreement with the company to extend the current contract while bargaining continues.

--A unilateral decision by the union to continue working without a contract, which employees at both ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel Corporation did in 2015.

--A vote to strike.

--Or a lockout initiated by ArcelorMittal.

The communique goes on to answer a number of FAQs:

Can I be fired during a strike or lockout?

“The right to strike is protected by law, so it would be illegal for ArcelorMittal to fire you simply for participating in a strike,” the USW said. A member can, however, be terminated or disciplined “for misconduct that occurs on a picket line, such as violence, property destruction, threats of violence, or threats of property damage.”

There are two kinds of strike, the USW noted. In the first--an “unfair labor practice strike”--the company may hire “only temporary replacements who must be discharged at the end of the strike in order to bring back the striking employees. The same is true for a lockout.”

In the second--an “economic strike”--the company may “hire permanent replacements who do not have to be discharged at the end of the strike,” although the union and the company may agree to discharge the permanent replacements as part of a strike settlement.

Can the company fire probationary employees for honoring the picket line?

No.

In a lockout, can members who don’t support the union’s bargaining position cross the picket line?

No. “In the event of a lockout, it would be illegal for the employer to allow any bargaining unit member to continue to work.”

If we work without a contract, can the company change our pay, benefits, or rights on the job?

No. “When the contract ends, the company cannot make any unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment without negotiating those changes with the union.”

Still, the USW said, “the company can only make a change if the union agrees or if the negotiations have reached an impasse. An impasse occurs when, after exhaustive good faith negotiations by both sides, neither party is willing to change its negotiating position.” In that case, the National Labor Relations Board may intervene to resolve the issue, and if the NLRB “does not uphold the company’s claim of impasse, the company will be required to return to the expired terms and conditions of employment and pay back for any losses suffered because of the illegally implemented unilateral changes.”

Will my healthcare coverage continue during a strike or lockout?

Yes, with the exception of Sickness & Accident coverage. Otherwise, healthcare will be continued for 150 days and the premium paid by the company. After 150 days, employees may obtain coverage through COBRA, the Affordable Care Act marketplace, or the USW Emergency Medical Program.

If there is a strike or lockout, can I still retire?

Yes. “If you retire after Sept. 1, 2018, you will be entitled to the pension benefit that you have earned up to your retirement date.”

On the other hand, “if you retire before the effective date of the new labor agreement, you may not be eligible for pension improvements in the new agreement (if any).”

If I retire now, can I avoid any increase in retiree contributions or changes to retiree health care?

No. “Any changes in retiree healthcare benefits (such as changes to benefits or premiums) will likely apply to all current and future retirees.”

The USW emphasizes, however, that the company may not allow a member who submits for a pension with a specific retirement date to withdraw that application and remain at work. “So an employee should not submit an application for retirement unless they fully intend to do so.”

USW Strike and Defense Fund

In the event of a strike, the USW Strike and Defense Fund provides money to help union members during strikes and lockouts: $225 per week per member, beginning in the fourth week of the strike or lockout, distributed on the basis of individual need. “Each local union establishes a committee to assess needs and distribute money.”

“The key to winning a strike or lockout is maintaining the solidarity of everyone,” the USW said. “Different people have different economic circumstances and the idea is that we all work together to support each other.”

Members may work for another company during a strike or lockout.

 

 

Posted 8/29/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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