Workers at Albany’s ATI Cast Products, known as “PacCast,” held a vote on February 22 to join the United Steelworkers (USW), but were defeated with 179 voting for, and 285 voting against. Reporting on the events of the union campaign show that direct pressures from management worked to stifle pro-union campaigners and foster a culture of fear against unionization.
PacCast is owned by Alleghany Technologies Inc. (ATI), a Pittsburgh-based specialty metals manufacturer with over $3.5 billion in revenue annually. ATI took over PacCast in 2011 after purchasing their former parent company Ladish Co.
“People are genuinely terrified,” said Dan Hoskins, a union supporter who has worked at PacCast for 15 years and has been through seven unionization campaigns, “[For] those of us who are…wearing our union t-shirts and hats…[other] people are afraid to be standing next to you. [It’s like] wearing a hammer and sickle in the middle of Reagan’s America.”
PacCast is described as a “high-turnover workplace where employees work a grueling rotation of 12 hour shifts and make as little as $13 an hour.” According to NW Labor Press, the quality of employment has taken a sharp dive at this plant compared to two other ATI-owned plants in Albany, both of which are unionized. PacCast’s health care deductible was $250 15 years ago, but has now ballooned to $3,000.
Workers reported of “mandatory, paid-time anti-union assembles,” where management led “30- to 90-minute long anti-union meetings, as often as two to three times a week.” Legally, ATI cannot discipline workers who refuse to attend, but all of PacCast’s employees came seemingly of their own volition.
There are allegations of a culture of fear, even alleged instances of surveillance on workers by management. In one case, Hoskins reported receiving a disciplinary notice for “campaigning on company time.” Hoskins says he was in the restroom at the time, speaking about company policy with a coworker.
USW has filed a dozen “unfair labor practice” charges against ATI, including threatening, surveillance, interrogation, and co-opting other employees in order to “squelch the union.” The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is currently investigating, with formal charges pending.