Steel Mills

ATI Salaried Workers Lose Health Coverage

Written by Sandy Williams

Allegheny Technology workers are in their sixth week of lockout by management with no word on when negotiations will resume.

The USW is currently arguing with ATI over medical benefits for locked out salaried office and technical workers in Harrison. The union filed a lawsuit on August 28 charging that the “company breached the union contract by ending health insurance coverage for those employees on Sept. 1.

The 90 workers are part of Local 1195-1 and work in offices at the ATI mill and in the technical center lab. The USW says ATI is in violation of the USW contract because it is not honoring a “lag agreement” in the contract that would extend coverage to the workers until November 30. ATI continues to pay health coverage for the hourly production workers at ATI.

ATI claims the lag agreement was never put in writing in the salaried contracts and the USW suit is, therefore, invalid and should be dismissed. In a court filed response to the suit, the attorney for ATI wrote:

“The Union’s entire Complaint is based on a non-existent sham agreement. Because Allegheny Ludlum and the Union never agreed that the PIB (program of insurance benefits) and Insurance Agreement, or their ‘lag date’ provision, would apply to Local 1196-1, the Union’s attempt to force Allegheny Ludlum to arbitrate that issue and to claim that Allegheny Ludlum breached that imaginary agreement cannot stand.”

The office and technical workers at ATI are receiving help from the USW in finding replacement insurance coverage. When possible, workers are trying to get on spouse insurance and, in some cases, on a plan that covers steelworkers in emergency or catastrophic health situations. COBRA insurance is also available to workers who have lost coverage due to the lock-out, but many are finding it difficult to afford.

Health care benefits are a point of contention at ATI, as they are at U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal. ATI is asking workers to accept steep increases in out-of-pocket health care as well as eliminating pension contributions for new hires.

The USW and ATI met with a federal mediator earlier this month but were unable to come to an agreement.

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