Mailed ballots were counted Friday at USWA headquarters in Pittsburgh. The final total was 299 against, and 218 in favor.
Unless last-minute negotiations save the day, the union will work its last shift on afternoon turn Tuesday, and work will stop at midnight that day.
Eli Morris, member of the negotiating committee for the local, said he continues to hold out hope that last-minute negotiations can avert a strike, but said he was very pleased with the vote. The negotiating committee had refused to submit the contract offer to the membership for a vote, but were overruled by a federal mediator.
“I'm elated,” Morris said. “They're asking the people to take a cut in health care at a time when the top five executives are making more in bonuses than they're offering in the contract.”
In a press release issued early Friday evening, Plant Manager Ron Thompson said the company “is disappointed with the vote.” The release offered no further comment.
In the past several weeks, Thompson had said this was the company's “last, best and final offer.”
“We think we have made a fair contract offer,” Thompson had said.
Other than a 24-hour wildcat strike in 1999, there has not been a work stoppage at the Ravenswood aluminum maker since the violence-marred, lengthy strike in the early 1990s, when the plant was owned by Emmett Boyle.
USWA International spokesman Tim Dean said the main issue is a proposed change to the employee health care plan that would move workers into a provider network. Currently, employees can obtain health care services from any provider.
“There are some providers that are in that particular area that were not in the network,” Dean said. “There also was concern over whether or not providers in the network would remain in the network once they would be approached to provide services at network (charges).”
Dean said he was to notify Century Aluminum on Saturday that the union plans to terminate the contract extension and would give the company a 72-hour strike notice. Union workers would walk out 11:59 p.m. Tuesday if an agreement is not reached, he said.
A federal mediator is trying to get the two sides back to the bargaining table before that deadline, Dean said. However, he said he does not know when, or if, talks would resume.
“The (USW) International hopes to work this out without a work stoppage. We think it would be in the best interest of both the company and our membership to do that,” Dean said.
Ryan Corriveau, a Point Pleasant resident who is chairman of the union safety committee, said there are a lot of safety-related issues that remain unresolved at the plant. There have been several injuries lately, he said, triggering an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.