The Denver Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board (Region 27) announced the resolution of the unfair labor practice litigation between that Agency, Rocky Mountain Steel Mills and the United Steelworkers of America.
As a result of successful settlement negotiations between the employer and the union, the parties have entered into a Labor Dispute Settlement Agreement that will result in reinstatement for all strikers and backpay up to nearly $100 million over the next 10 years.
Background—Following unsuccessful contract negotiations between Rocky Mountain Steel (then CF&I) and the Steelworkers Union in 1997, a strike commenced involving approximately 1,000 workers at the employer's Pueblo, Colo., mill. Unfair labor practice charges were filed by the Union against Rocky Mountain Steel, including allegations that the Employer unlawfully refused to reinstate the strikers when the strike ended on December 30, 1997. The Employer also filed charges against the union alleging that certain union conduct during the strike constituted unfair labor practices. Following litigation of the allegations raised by these charges in separate trials, Administrative Law Judges Albert A. Metz and Thomas M. Patton issued decisions in 2000 recommending to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., that both the Employer and the Union had committed certain unfair labor practices and recommending that they be ordered to take specific remedial action.
Settlement of the Litigation—Before the Board issued its final rulings, Rocky Mountain Steel Mills and the United Steelworkers of America, and its Locals 2102 and 3267 entered into a Labor Dispute Settlement Agreement (LDSA) on January 15, 2004, which was subsequently approved by the Employer's shareholders, Board of Directors and Bankers (including the Employer's parent corporation Oregon Steel Mills, Inc.) and ratified by a majority vote of the Union membership. As a result of the LDSA, on March 16 the Parties jointly requested of Regional Director B. Allan Benson that he approve their request to have all of the unfair labor practice charges withdrawn. Based on that request, and motions filed by the Regional Office with the Board in Washington, the Board returned the case to Director Benson for consideration of the Parties' requests. After carefully considering the matter, Director Benson issued an Order on August 11 withdrawing the unfair labor practice complaints and approving the withdrawal requests conditioned upon the ongoing requirement that the Parties carry out their responsibilities under the LDSA.
The LDSA is a global settlement that includes a system for immediate reinstatement of the strikers who are the subject of the underlying Administrative Law Judge Decision in the Regional Office's litigation against the Employer to their "rightful place" without loss of seniority or other benefits due to their participation in the strike. The settlement also provides for an immediate payment of $2,500 to each of the approximately 1,000 employees who were denied reinstatement in December 1997, the placement in trust of 4 million shares of Oregon Steel stock for distribution to strikers who were denied reinstatement, and the distribution of up to $35 million in profit sharing to those employees over the next 10 years. The settlement also included the execution of 5-year collective-bargaining agreements covering all three of the bargaining units of the Employer's employees represented by the Union; certain enhanced and early retirement benefits; voluntary resolution of all collateral litigation relating to the labor dispute underlying the NLRB litigation; amnesty for any claimed misconduct arising during the strike; and commitments by the parties to not engage in any future unfair labor practice conduct.
In approving the Parties’ withdrawal requests, Director Benson concluded that the parties' non-Board settlement provides a fair and reasonable resolution to the allegations of the complaint found meritorious by the Administrative Law Judges at that stage of the litigation. Director Benson noted: the dispute arises in the context of a long history of collective bargaining between the parties and the settlement re-establishes and promotes stability in that relationship; the terms of the settlement directly remedy the strike-related unfair labor practice allegations against both the Employer and the Union and the refusal to bargain allegations against the Employer that underlie the vast majority of the case; and the settlement was ratified by an overwhelming majority of the Union membership.
Director Benson comments, “I am very pleased that this lengthy and exhaustive litigation has been resolved through a spirit of cooperation and collective bargaining between the parties. Even if the government had ultimately been successful in further litigation, it could not have produced the renewed stability in collective bargaining that this settlement has produced. That relationship will benefit the working men and women at the Pueblo mill every bit as much as the very significant amount of money that they will receive to remedy their losses since December 1997. Rocky Mountain Steel and the Steelworkers Union were extremely creative and obviously committed in their approach to settlement and the results of those efforts will benefit all who were involved in this major labor dispute. They should take great satisfaction in those efforts.
“NLRB senior trial attorneys William J. Daly and Michael Cooperman litigated the government's case against the Employer, and NLRB Senior Trial Attorney Michael T. Pennington litigated the government's case against the union. While all three were exceptional in these efforts, the litigation of the case against the Employer was extremely lengthy and concerned the critical issues of the refusal to reinstate the strikers and the unfair labor practices underlying that matter. Mr. Daly and Mr. Cooperman strongly established that case and that was certainly instrumental in motivating the parties to negotiate their settlement. I commend them for their unfailing and effective prosecution of this matter over these many years.”