Alcoa steelworkers vote to authorize strike

Members of the United Steelworker’s Union Local 105 voted unanimously to authorize a strike if national negotiators call for one. Their contract is set to...

Members of the United Steelworker's Union Local 105 voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize a strike if national negotiators call for one. Their contract is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 15.

Wednesday, dozens of Alcoa workers held an informational picket outside the company's Riverdale plant.

"We're out here today basically so we don't have to be out here on a strike," said Mike Nicholas, financial secretary for USW Local 105.

Since April, representatives from the international United Steelworkers Union have been negotiating with Alcoa in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Wednesday evening, negotiators posted this update online:

"Talks continue toward a fair and competitive labor agreement before the contract expires tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Today, Alcoa and the USW reviewed proposals and counter proposals in economics, benefits and language."

Nearly 2,400 people work at Alcoa in the Quad Cities. More than 70 percent of those employees are covered by USW contracts.

"We're out here to let the guys in Pittsburgh know we're supporting them, and we want a fair contract," said Amber St. Clair, who's worked at Alcoa for nearly 10 years.

Local union members said they were most worried about the proposed creation of a two-tier pension system that could mean different health and retirement benefits for future employees. The company is referring to this two-tier system as a defined contribution system.

"Those are our family members, our neighbors, our friends, and we need to make sure they get the same benefits and can take care of their families the same way we've been able to," said Roy Hutt, USW Local 105 treasurer.

In a series of strike authorization votes, local members also voted unanimously Wednesday to give negotiators another tool. Both sides, though, hope a deal is reached before a strike ever occurs.

"If there's a work stoppage, we would intend to run the plant as we have, and made preparations for in the past, but hopefully we don't get to that," said John Riches, public affairs manager for Alcoa. "The bottom line for us is that we hope to reach a competitive, fair labor agreement by midnight tomorrow night. I think everybody believes that's possible.

Even if negotiators fail to reach a deal by midnight Thursday, they could agree to an extension to avoid a strike.