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MCDONALD STEEL Workers briefly walk off the job



Published: Fri, May 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

At issue were safety concerns, a union official said.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

McDONALD -- The first union contract negotiations at McDonald Steel may begin soon amid the fallout from a brief walkout by workers.

Hourly workers walked off the job Wednesday when company President Thomas Kantor refused to meet with a group of about 50 workers over safety concerns, said Rick Kepler, Teamsters Local 377 organizer. The workers stayed off the job for about 90 minutes.

The walkout sent a message to management as they prepare to begin negotiations with union officials, Kepler said. The union was approved by only a few votes, but the workers showed Wednesday that they are not divided because all of them left the mill, he said.

"They all acted like a union," he said.

Bill Farragher, a McDonald Steel spokesman, declined to comment on the walkout or negotiations.

Kepler said he thinks talks may start next week but added that union officials are upset that talks have not already begun. Workers approved forming a union in October. They will be jointly represented by the Teamsters and United Steelworkers of America.

What happened: Kepler said Wednesday's walkout started when Chris Colello, Local 377 president, went to the mill to check out workers' complaints about safety issues. Kepler said workers have complained that machines do not have proper guards and that production speeds are too fast.

After company officials had police escort Colello out of the mill, a group of workers then went to Kantor to talk about safety issues, Kepler said. Kantor said he would talk only to individual workers, and then told workers they were not going to be paid for this time because they weren't working, Kepler said.

"They said, 'If we're off the clock, then we're out of here,' " he said.

McDonald Steel, which is 40 percent employee-owned, was formed in 1981 and operates in the former U.S. Steel McDonald Works. Before last year's successful union vote, workers had rejected forming a union three times. The bargaining unit has 165 workers.

The Teamsters and Steelworkers agreed to the joint representation plan as a compromise to a jurisdictional dispute between the two unions.




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