MASSENA - Members of United Steelworkers 420-A gathered in front of Alcoa West Wednesday afternoon just one day prior to the expiration of their contract, for what participants were calling a solidarity rally.
Holding blue and yellow placards with the words Solidarity, Unity and Strength for Workers written on them, a group that began with just eight people at 2 p.m., but grew to nearly 30 by 3 p.m. waved the placards encouraging passing vehicles to honk their horns for support as they drove by.
This is a rally for solidarity and were doing this with the employees from all of the plants in our bargaining unit, said 420-A Recording Secretary Michael Kormanyos, who noted employees from nine other Alcoa plants across the U.S. were also holding similar rallies on Wednesday.
The contract Alcoa has with those roughly 6,100 employees expires at 1 a.m. Friday morning, midnight Central time, Mr. Kormanyos said.
When asked if he was expecting a deal to be reached before then, Mr. Kormanyos said he wasnt sure.
Were not at that table, but I can tell you all were looking for is a fair contract with no concessions, he said. The International has put together a package that we believe is fair and acceptable.
In addition to members of Local 420-A, members of several other area unions also attended the rally to show their support.
Craig Garrow said he is a member of the local laborers union.
Im here to support the steelworkers, he said.
Robin Johnson is a member of the local AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees).
Im with the AFGE, but I have family thats retired from the plant and Im from the area, she said. I know a lot of people in there.
In addition to support from other labor groups in the area, one 420-A member brought along his entire family, including his dog Jack.
Nick Perkins was joined at the rally by his wife Megan and his daughter Sophia, as well as the familys black lab, who was even wearing a USW T-shirt.
I pulled her out of school a little bit early, Mrs. Perkins said. I figured how many peaceful pickets could she ever be a part of.
Massena Mayor James F. Hidy briefly stopped by the rally to lend his support.
I do support the local unions. They are the backbone of our local economy, he said. These are people who have tremendous buying power. They support our local economy and businesses.
Mr. Hidy said he is hopeful that a deal will be reached prior to any work stoppages.
I strongly support bargaining in good faith, but I also recognize that with the uncertainty of Alcoa that the health care and competitive wages they offer are critical for our region, he said.
Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray echoed those sentiments.
I am hopeful for a quick and positive resolution to the negotiations, he said.
Former USW Local 450-A President David W. LaClair now works at Alcoa West and is a 420-A member. When asked what he was expecting to see happen, he said at this point, its hard to tell.
They have a deadline and they will work until the deadline comes. Sometimes youll see the deadline extended or you might see a strike or lockout. Until that time comes we dont know, he said.
Regardless of the outcome, Mr. LaClair said its nice to know the workers have support from the Massena community.
Speaking as dozens of vehicles drove by honking their horns and waving, Mr. LaClair said, Its great to see the support from Massena and the surrounding communities.
He said Massena has a long history of supporting its unions.
Massena and the surrounding communities have always been supportive of labor with GM, Alcoa, the Seaway, the former Reynolds plant and other local labor groups, he said.
According to an update posted on Alcoas website Wednesday evening, a deal has yet to be reached, but negotiations remain ongoing.
Talks continue toward a fair and competitive labor agreement before the contract expires tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Today, Alcoa and the USW reviewed proposals and counterproposals in economics, benefits and language, the update read.