A steady stream of cars, trucks and SUVs found spaces in the parking deck of Isle Casino & Hotel in Bettendorf just after 1 pm Thursday.
The action, however, was not out on the casino floor.
Members of the United Steel Workers Local 105 union streamed in and out of Suite A of the hotel’s conference center during the day to cast a unanimous vote to authorize a strike against Arconic if new-contract talks break down.
The current three-year contract was signed in July 2019 and expires on May 15.
“105 is a unanimous yes for strike authorization,” the union posted on its Facebook page. “Next is the rally tomorrow from 4: 30-7: 00 in front of the plant. Come to the hall early so we can walk as one to the plant !!”
USW Local 105 guide Lee Shaffer said Thursday’s vote “simply means that if talks break down, or talks are not extended, the United Steelworkers International has the support to call a general strike.”
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According to Shaffer, a strike is authorized by the rank and file of Local 105 as long as over 50% of those who cast ballots vote in favor of strike authorization.
“The important thing to remember is that the May 15 deadline may come and talks can be extended,” Shaffer said. “That’s what happened during the 2019 talks. This vote is not a signal that we intend to strike. It makes a strike an option.”
Shaffer also pointed out the roughly 1,800 Arconic workers who are represented by Local 105 aren’t the only USW workers who voted Thursday.
Talks were also being held in Pittsburgh, and the new contract will set wages and benefits for employees from four locations – Arconic Davenport Works in Riverdale and at locations in Lafayette, Ind .; Massena, NY; and Alcoa, Tenn.
“I’m actually hearing good things from the guys in Pittsburgh,” Shaffer said. “Talks have picked back up a bit, and we see that as a good sign.”
In a statement issued Monday, a representative from Arconic said the company is not surprised by the strike authorization vote and also sounded a hopeful note.
“Arconic is aware that the USW plans to hold a strike authorization vote, which is a normal step in the bargaining process,” the statement read. “We believe we can reach an agreement that is in the best interest of our employees and look forward to continuing negotiations at the bargaining table.”
Arconic supplies aluminum sheet, plate and extruded products to global customers in aerospace, automotive, commercial transportation, defense, industrial and building and construction industries, according to its website.
Arconic is the eighth-largest employer in the Quad-Cities with 2,400 union and nonunion employees, according to the company.
The company has undergone a change in recent years. Known formerly as Alcoa, in 2016, that company split, forming Arconic Inc. for manufactured products and Alcoa Corp. for aluminum and other materials processing operations. In 2020, Arconic split, forming Howmet, an aerospace company, and Arconic.
The expiring contract provided annual general wage increases of 3.5% each year for an estimated 1,800 union members working at the local Arconic location. It maintained or improved existing benefits, like supplemental unemployment and health care and retirement provisions for active employees. The agreement featured a $ 1,750 ratification bonus.
Last week, company officials announced revenue rose 31% to $ 2.2 billion year-over-year and was up 2% from the prior quarter. It reported adjusted earnings of $ 205 million for the first quarter, an increase of 15% year over year, driven by higher aluminum prices, ongoing recovery in aerospace, a ramp-up in packaging sales in the United States and increased spending on non-residential construction in North America. But net income fell to $ 42 million in the first quarter of 2022 – or 39 cents a share – from $ 52 million, or 46 cents a share, compared with the same quarter last year, falling short of analyst expectations.
Recent labor negotiations at two of the area’s other largest employers were settled after union members went on strike.
More than 10,000 members of the United Autoworkers union nationwide settled a five-week strike against John Deere Co. on Nov. 17, 2021, after agreeing to a six-year deal that included an immediate 10% raise, an $ 8,500 signing bonus and raises in the third and fifth years of the contract.
Over 400 members of the Machinists Local 388 and Local 1191 reached a five-year deal with Davenport’s Eaton-Cobham Mission Systems after a strike that lasted nearly a month.
Editor Tom Barton contributed to this story.