USW: Sherwin Alumina Ends 2-Year Lockout of Unionists By Shutting Texas Plant; Union Negotiates Buyouts, Pensions

GREGORY, Texas—After locking out its 450 Steelworker members for more than two years, Sherwin Alumina shut its Gregory, Texas, plant on November 4, the union reported. USW negotiated severance pay, preservation of the pension plan and other benefits for the workers.

The federal bankruptcy court in the Gregory area approved the settlement, as part of Sherwin Alumina’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, virtually at the same time.

“While the USW ultimately is deeply troubled by the company’s decision to shut down the plant, we are proud of the way these brave workers stood up to a greedy corporate giant and fought as hard as they could to achieve the best possible result for themselves, their families and the entire community,” Steelworkers District Director Ruben Garza told the union.

“From the beginning, this has been a story of corporate greed, which led to the company’s unnecessary and disastrous lockout and, ultimately, the bankruptcy of a once-thriving facility.

“Throughout the past two years, through repeated attempts to reach an agreement at the bargaining table, through NLRB cases and appeals, through bankruptcy, and of course in the face of the company’s relentless concessionary demands and intimidation tactics, the members of Local 235A stood strong,” Garza said.

The parent union backed the local and its suffering members with strike and defense benefits, emergency health benefits and campaigning for worldwide solidarity against the firm. The unionists also enlisted much of South Texas to their side.

And the local pointed out that it gave Sherwin Alumina “repeated proposals” to keep the Gregory plant open. The firm rejected them and opted for bankruptcy law protection instead.

Sherwin said it would permanently lay off the 450 workers. That lets the workers keep pension rights and seek federal benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. TAA is designed to help workers who lose their jobs due to unfair foreign competition. That’s what happened to the Texas workers, said Steelworkers President Leo Gerard.

“This situation was exacerbated by the flood of unfairly traded Chinese aluminum into the United States. But in the end, it was the strength and solidarity of the 235A membership that was instrumental in preserving the benefits we were able to secure through this agreement,” he said.

“If this difficult situation proves anything, it is that USW members never stop fighting for what is right, even in the face of a greedy, hostile global conglomerate. We did not – and we will not – abandon the working families of South Texas. While we are disappointed by this outcome, we should all be proud of the way we stood up for each other.”

Source: PAI