Some 4,500 United Steelworkers of America members will vote today on a tentative contract agreement with Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. that could settle a strike that has idled plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia since October 1, 1996.
USWA leaders praised the solidarity of the union membership, and report that the agreement, which would run until Sept. 1, 2002, includes return of a defined-benefit pension, wage increases, signing bonus, and medical reimbursements. "This is a great victory for labor and for the steelworkers and our local unions, but mostly it is a great victory for the Wheeling-Pitt steelworkers and their families," said George Becker, international president of the USWA, when the tentative accord was reached earlier this month.
John Scheessele, chairman and CEO of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, said the tentative pact is a win-win that enables the company to reduce worker levels and alter work rules. Though regretting the hardships to workers, family, and community, Scheessele said customer contacts have been maintained and plant improvements have been made during strike that should give the steelmaker an opportunity to win back business. "That will require producing the highest quality products and meeting or exceeding our customer's expectations; delivering our products on time; and meeting market prices. Everyone in the company--represented employees and management--must be committed to these goals for us to succeed in this very competitive market."