PITTSBURGH, Sept. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that members of its locked-out Local 285/441 at Armstrong World Industries were joined by hundreds of supporters and fellow Armstrong employees for a solidarity rally at the company’s headquarters in Lancaster, Pa.
On July 17, 2011, Armstrong locked out 260 workers at its ceiling tile manufacturing plant in Marietta, Pa., despite the union’s good faith offer to remain on the job while negotiations for a new contract proceeded.
The company demands that workers agree to steep cuts to both economic and non-economic contract provisions. Armstrong claims that these cuts are financially necessary, but the company’s effort to slash workers’ pay and benefits comes in the aftermath of business decisions that union analysts have described as “reckless.”
In fact, the company recently suffered a credit downgrade from Standard and Poor’s after borrowing more than a billion dollars to fund a “special dividend” for owners and investors.
“Nine months ago, Armstrong handed its owners an $800 million bonus,” said USW District 10 Staff Representative Tom Jones, who chairs the union’s negotiating committee. “Now that it’s time to talk about healthcare and retirement benefits for hourly employees, the same company cries, ‘broke.'”
USW members remain willing to return to their jobs and negotiate with Armstrong for a fair contract, but the company is trying to operate the Marietta manufacturing facility with office staff and temporary replacement workers.
“We just want to get back to work,” said USW Local 285/441 President John Bevel, “but Armstrong management has failed to recognize our contribution to the company’s profitability by negotiating with us.”
Bevel said he hopes that today’s presence at the company’s headquarters will motivate management and executives to end the lockout and compromise on a fair agreement with the USW.