Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, stopped to encourage more than 100 workers locked out of a Louisville steel plant on Friday.
Brown and members of his staff interacted with members of United Steel Workers (USW) Local 1046 at the Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) Flat Rolled Products plant, 1500 W. Main St., Louisville, where Mayor Pat Fallot and other city officials, including representatives of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce, joined with employees and their families on the picket line.
On June 3, Pittsburgh-based ATI sent a 145-item list to the union with proposed changes to the contract, including cuts to benefits, pensions and incentives. With no agreements made to renew the contract, the company initiated a lockout at its 12 plants in August.
The lockout — preliminarily deemed illegal by the National Labor Relations Board — has impacted an estimated 2,200 employees throughout six states, and approximately 120 employees are affected at the Louisville plant.
Union President Karl Brendle said the local picket line has been staffed 24-7 since Aug. 15, but estimated 42-46 other workers continue to staff the plant.
Mike Baumgardner, vice president of USW Local 1046, alleged the stand-in workers were hired before the union contract expired in June. “This was a premeditated labor dispute,” he said.
Union officials can’t get in touch with management, Brendle added.
“We’re fearing that our unemployment is running out,” he said, adding he’s hopeful for some form of emergency unemployment. “Another concern away from the unemployment is losing resources with guys retiring or finding other work. We have a lot of specialty products here.”
Union officials and workers agreed Brown has been supportive of the steelworkers’ cause since the lockout began in August.
“From day one, Sherrod and his staff have been in constant communication with us. This is the fourth or fifth time his staff has been here. It means the world to us,” Baumgardner said. “When it comes to union middle-class jobs, he doesn’t only talk the talk, he walks the walk.”