WEIRTON - Contract ratification is now under way for hourly workers at ArcelorMittal's domestic operations.
Details of the proposed three-year agreement were mailed to members, who now have a chance to learn more at informational meetings slated this week across the country.
Locally, the first of seven informational meetings is set for 7 p.m. today at United Steelworkers Union Local 2911 hall in Weirton. Additional sessions will be held at 7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
Ballots will be counted Oct. 18 at USW headquarters in Pittsburgh.
Mark Glyptis, president of USW Local 2911, declined to talk about contract specifics, saying he needed to have those discussions with union members before discussing the proposal with non-members.
However, information obtained by The Weirton Daily Times indicates the hourly work force would realize a 4.5 percent increase in wages over the life of the agreement, as well as $2,500 in lump sum payments after ratification.
In addition, the agreement protects health care coverage for retirees, enhances coverage for active workers, guarantees the company will reinvest in its plants.
It sidestepped the company's call for a two-tiered wage system that would have treated new hires differently than veteran workers.
"That was not part of this agreement, we were able to ward that off," Glyptis said, reiterating that the union was "very much against" the company's two-tiered pay scheme.
"We feel we have an obligation to do as much as we can to provide the highest level benefit we can for current retirees," he said. "For those considering retirement in the next five or 10 years, I would hope our new employees would then negotiate the best benefits for us when we retire. We thought one way to be able to do that was to make sure we maintain their wages (now)."
Glyptis said the union did not accept the two-tiered system the company had sought.
He also said the USW's negotiating team "looked at each of our constituencies, and through the solidarity of the union were able to obtain a very fair contract for all of our constituents - whether they're the very young, a senior employee or current retiree. We also wanted to make sure it would be a sustainable business, that the facility would be here a long time. That's where reinvestment came in, why we have to make sure the company reinvests back into the plant."
Glyptis, meanwhile, said the order book has been strong, consequently employment numbers are up.
"We hired 25 last week," he said, saying they've now added 100 new workers at Weirton. "We have a good opportunity here, so that's significant. We're producing a very good product, there's demand for our product and good things are happening. To go from not seeing anyone hired for years to seeing 100 hired, that's a good feeling."
Glyptis sees an opportunity to grow more, in fact.
"I'm satisfied it's a good contract," he said. "If the contract is ratified, I think it's going to be a tremendous opportunity for the area not just for the tinplate business, but for the valley. I think the next five or 10 years can be very exciting."
If ratified, the new contract would be in effect through Sept. 1, 2015.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)