With their union's leadership at the bargaining table with Alcoa Inc., members of United Steelworkers Local 105 took to the picket line Thursday to show their solidarity.
Gathered outside Alcoa Davenport Works in Riverdale, dozens of union members — current workers and retirees — held picket signs demanding a fair contract for all.
"We need to show the company we're standing together whether we are 75 people here or 5,000 across the master (contract)," said Mike Nicholas, Local 105's financial secretary and a rolling equipment operator.
The Steelworkers' first informational picket comes as union and company representatives began negotiating a new contract this week in Pittsburgh. The union's existing four-year contract expires May 15. It covers more than 5,000 employees at 10 Alcoa plants and 11 locals. Local 105, which represents 1,700 union members at Davenport Works, is the largest local.
"We want a fair contract, equal pay for equal work," said Amber St. Clair, of Bettendorf, who works as an ultrasonic inspector. "Alcoa is doing really good and we want to make sure everyone is treated fairly."
Picketers chanted "No Two-tier" to protest Alcoa's proposal for two-tier healthcare and pension plans, which would put new hires on different plans than existing employees.
Dale Lampe, of Davenport, a furnace operator and 30-year employee, worries that under a two-tier system "the younger guys would make less money and not have a pension. They would go to a 401(k) plan."
Monique Wheat, of Davenport, who works in the inspection, packing and shipping department, also hopes the new contract takes care of the new hires. She left Oscar Mayer, where she had worked eight years, to join Alcoa three years ago and said "Luckily, I got in under the last contract and have a pension."
Bonnie Carey and Jerry Porter, who serve as president and vice president, respectively, of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, or SOAR, said retirees have their own set of concerns as the union negotiates a new contract with their former employer.
"When we left it was 'what you see is what you get,' but that's not true," said Porter, of Rock Island, who worked 41 years before retiring in 2006. He said his pension is less than he expected due to increases in the prescription plan.
Carey, who retired as an ultrasonic inspector in 2009, said "union presidents before us earned all these benefits — pensions and healthcare — and we keep giving them back."
Workers pointed to the growing automotive business at Davenport Works and a new agreement with Spirit AeroSystems announced Thursday as signs of the company's financial health.
"Alcoa is growing ... they're going to be making lots of money," said Jason Waldmann, a welder from Princeton. "Automotive is going to be huge. We just think everybody should get a fair shake."