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Steelworkers rally outside locked ATI plants

| Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, 10:27 p.m.
Bob Barbiaux of Allison Park pickets outside Allegheny Technology's new hot-rolling mill in Harrison Saturday night, Aug.15, 2015, after the company locked out the United Steelworkers amidst contract negotiations.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Bob Barbiaux of Allison Park pickets outside Allegheny Technology's new hot-rolling mill in Harrison Saturday night, Aug.15, 2015, after the company locked out the United Steelworkers amidst contract negotiations.
Bob Barbiaux, left, of Allison Park and Jim Slomka of Lower Burrell picket outside Allegheny Technology's new hot-rolling mill in Harrison Saturday night, Aug.15, 2015, after the company locked out the United Steelworkers amidst contract negotiations.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Bob Barbiaux, left, of Allison Park and Jim Slomka of Lower Burrell picket outside Allegheny Technology's new hot-rolling mill in Harrison Saturday night, Aug.15, 2015, after the company locked out the United Steelworkers amidst contract negotiations.
United Steelworkers and their supporters converse outside of the Local 1196 union hall in Brackenridge after members were locked out by Allegheny Technologies Saturday night, Aug. 15, 2015.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
United Steelworkers and their supporters converse outside of the Local 1196 union hall in Brackenridge after members were locked out by Allegheny Technologies Saturday night, Aug. 15, 2015.

Members of the United Steelworkers began to rally outside the locked gates of Allegheny Technologies' Alle-Kiski Valley steel mills late Saturday.

The specialty steel manufacturer announced it would lock out about 2,200 union workers from its Flat-rolled Products division after the USW declined to approve the company's “last, best and final” contract offer earlier this month.

The lockout, which affects 12 plants in six states, officially began at 10 p.m. Saturday, but the company began canceling employee shifts Friday morning as operations were shut down.

Union leaders for the A-K Valley's three ATI plants said their members would begin gathering at midnight Saturday at the mills in Harrison, Gilpin and Vandergrift.

“We will man our gates and let them know that we're there,” said Mike Abate, who leads negotiations for USW Local 1138.

“We'll stand at our gates where we'd enter for work,” he said of the Bagdad and Vandergrift Works. “We'll maintain a presence at our facilities until they call us back to the table and we resolve our differences to gain a fair contract.”

Fran Arabia, president of USW Local 1196, said his members planned to gather at their Brackenridge union hall before heading to the gates at the nearby Harrison facilities, including ATI's new $1.2 billion hot-rolling mill.

Members also were signing up to work future picketing shifts.

Many arrived Saturday night with signs denouncing the lockout and ATI's plans to bring in temporary workers to run the mills.

With a cheer for the “women of steel,” several female employees inked a new sign, “If I see a scab, I'll picket. Scabs leave scars.”

Another group of union supporters set up a light that shined “Fair contract now” on the mill wall at the intersection of River Road and Mile Lock Lane in Natrona while several laborers held a sign declaring “Unfair Labor Lock Out.”

The start of picketing occurred peacefully in Brackenridge and Harrison. Brackenridge police frequently patrolled past the union hall, but officers had no reason to exit their cars.

The only commotion was the supportive honks of passing vehicles.

The USW on Saturday issued a statement to members advising them on workers' rights in terms of unemployment compensation, health care and other concerns.

It warned workers against violence and property damage during demonstrations: “Misconduct on the picket line can also lead to an injunction against the union limiting our right to picket so it is very important that we all conduct ourselves in a safe and mature way.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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