CHICAGO Members of United
Steelworkers union Local 3643 ratified a two-year contract
extension May 5 with Alton Steel Co., which local president
Terry Wooden called a win-win for both sides, as it provides
stability for members and allows the company to know what its
fixed costs will be through the end of the contract.
The Alton, Ill.-based company
approached Wooden roughly two months ago about extending the
existing contract, which was to expire this August. It now
expires in 2015.
"It took about six weeks of
talking to come to terms," he told AMM. "The terms are
consistent but a little better on the hourly (wage) rate."
Workers will get a 3-percent
raise in each year of the contract, which Wooden deemed "a
While Wooden didnt know
the exact vote tally, he was told by poll watchers that 97
percent of members voted in favor of the agreement, which
covers about 260 hourly employees.
The agreement was reached
because the company and the union have a good relationship,
president and chief executive officer Charlie Linnemeyer told
"In this very competitive
market, we wanted to lock in what our work-force costs were
going to be (because) we have some capital projects we want to
do. We are looking at the melt shop and the bar mill," he
Alton produces roughly 300,000
tons of special-bar quality and merchant-quality steel bar
products annually. Settling the contract extension "allows us
to look a bit closer at what we can do and cannot do." Company
leaders are looking at specific projects but havent
settled on its top priorities yet.
As part of the contract
extension, Alton will raise its contribution to the
unions pension fund by 20 cents per hour over the next
two years, and "our health-care coverage will remain the same
with no employee contribution," Wooden said.
Linnemeyer said Altons
strongest market is the automotive supply chain, including
forgers and cold-finished bar mills.
An inventory reduction by
manufacturers and dealers of off-road machinery and heavy
trucks that began in the second half of last year has
stabilized, he said, and equipment makers "are starting to buy
steel as needed." Alton, which has a 10-week backlog of orders,
also sells "a lot to service centers. That seems to be picking
up as well."
Linnemeyer is pleased Alton has survived the past 10 years.
The company rose from the ashes of Laclede Steel Co. in May
amm.com, May 29, 2003). "Not only did we come back, we
have stayed in existence," he said.