ATI replacement workers sue steel maker over commuting time during lockout
Replacement workers hired during the six-month Allegheny Technologies Inc. lockout spent about 90 minutes a day being bused into and out of the company's Pennsylvania and Oregon facilities but weren't paid for that time, two former replacement workers claim in a lawsuit filed Monday in Pittsburgh federal court.
The lawsuit identifies the two plaintiffs only by name and state — Ralph Smith of North Carolina and Ignatius Harris of California.
Smith worked at ATI's Brackenridge facility while Harris worked at the steelmaker's Albany, Ore., facility, said their attorney, Sarah R. Schalman-Bergen. She declined to provide further details on the two plaintiffs.
The lawsuit claims not paying the workers for the time spent riding into and out of work saved ATI millions of dollars. The claim is based on the number of workers the plaintiffs think were hired during the lockout, she said.
“We believe that they replaced all of the union, so it's approximately 2,000 workers,” Schalman-Bergen said.
Pittsburgh-based ATI doesn't comment on litigation, spokesman Dan Greenfield said. A spokesman for the company that provided the replacement workers, Strom Engineering Corp. of Minnetonka, Minn., couldn't be reached.
While workers normally aren't paid for commuting to and from work, the replacement workers were required to travel to specific locations, sign in and wait for a ride into the facilities, so they effectively reported for work when they signed in, she said. The trips between those locations and the facilities were “integral and essential” parts of their work, she said.
Because they were on a seven-day, 12-hours-a-day work week schedule, all of the travel time should have been covered by overtime wages, Schalman-Bergen said.
The claims in the collective and class action lawsuit are similar to those made in one she filed a year ago for a Johnny De La Torre of Turlock, Calif. That case ended without going to trial, Schalman-Bergen said. She declined to explain how the case ended.
The new lawsuit makes claims both under federal and state wage laws, which requires different types of lawsuits. The federal claim is a collective action, which requires the former replacement workers to opt-in to be included in any settlement. The state claims are class actions, which requires them to opt-out if they don't want to be included in any settlement.
The lawsuit seeks to represent all replacement workers hired to work during the lockout in Pennsylvania and Oregon.
The steel maker locked out about 2,200 United Steelworkers members at 12 plants in six states on Aug. 15, 2015, after delivering a final contract offer that included cuts to health care benefits and other concessions. The lockout included about 1,700 employees in Western Pennsylvania.
The lockout ended after the union members approved a new contract in March 2016.