After several months of bargaining, the United Steelworkers (USW) union has reached an agreement with the management of the Sherwin Alumina plant in Gregory that preserves the pension plan and gains severance pay and other benefits for USW members when Sherwin officially shuts down the plant on Friday, Nov. 4, more than two years after the company locked 450 workers out of their jobs. The court in Sherwin's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case approved the settlement today after a short hearing.
"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," said USW District 13 Director Ruben Garza. "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.
"That's not to say we didn't have help – the solidarity of our allies around the world, the strength of the USW's strike and defense fund and emergency health benefits, as well as the support of the entire South Texas community, all played a role in keeping this fight alive."
The USW repeatedly presented Sherwin with proposals designed to keep the plant open. Sherwin filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January and notified the USW in August that it planned to close the facility. The closure agreement confirms that all bargaining unit work at the plant will cease on Nov. 4 and the lockout will end. The permanent shutdown will trigger eligibility for shutdown pension benefits.
Under the closure agreement, the company will permanently lay off the USW work force, which will allow workers to preserve certain pension rights, as well as assist with pursuing Trade Adjustment Assistance and other benefits.
"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," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "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."
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org/.
CONTACT: Ben Lilienfeld: (832) 556-0370,