Watch CBS News

Steelworkers Stage Big Protest In Downtown Pittsburgh Over ATI Contract

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It was one of the largest steelworkers' protest against a steel company that Downtown Pittsburgh has seen in a while.

The target of the protest was ATI, Allegheny Technologies, formerly Allegheny Ludlum Steel, that has seven flat-rolled plants in the region and whose labor contract with 2,200 steelworkers expired June 30.

"Their demands on the table are ones that we are not going to be able to meet," says Tom Conway, vice president of the United Steelworkers.

Union leaders say ATI wants workers to pay too much for health care, ultimately $215 a month or $2,600 a year for family health coverage.

"What they're asking employees to pay for healthcare is just unreachable for our folks," notes Conway.

Currently, steelworkers do not pay for health care coverage. In a statement, ATI said the average American family pays $400 in monthly premiums.

ATI executive vice president Bob Wetherbee added, "Our employees are among the highest-paid in the industry, taking home an average of $94,000 in 2014."

"We're not seeking wage-rate reductions. To better balance the equation, we must find a sustainable solution to address other rising costs, including the skyrocketing cost of healthcare."

Union officials say they want to talk to ATI, but security blocked entry to ATI's headquarters at 6 PPG Place.

"I didn't expect they were receiving visitors today anyway," added Conway.

But that didn't stop at least 800 steelworkers and supporters from marching, saying America's middle class is getting squeezed.

"America is on the dark end of a stick. We've seen our inequality and our income equality slide. We've seen bosses pay skyrocket," says Conway.

And it's not just about money.

"My husband is working 12-hour shifts, and we have no quality of life," noted Sylvia Schneider of Tarentum.

Without a contract, steelworkers say this is just the first protest, shouting, "We'll be back. We'll be back."

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.