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ASARCO ends nine-month strike after workers offer to go back to work

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The United Steel Workers Union has ended its nine-month strike against ASARCO.

About 2,000 hourly workers at five ASARCO LLC locations in Arizona and Texas went on strike in Oct. 2019.

The United Steelworkers Association made the announcement in a letter Sunday.

"They have a sign of hope you know for us to be able to come back to the table and negotiate better terms and deals for these workers," said Ruben Gonzales, vice president of USW 937. "You know a lot of them have been there 20-30 years."

This comes after the national labor relations board issued a sweeping complaint against ASARCO, alleging multiple violations of federal labor law.

"Given the fact that there has been a positive ruling on the ULP charges then you know this is a prudent step forward right," said Karla Schumann, principal officer of Teamsters Local 104. "End the strike, get the workers back to work, go from there. Hopefully, go back to the table and do something. We'll see."

July 5, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our Union initiated an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Strike against Asarco in October 2019. For nearly nine months our members have stood strong on the picket line, continuing our campaign for a fair contact even in the middle of a national health emergency. During our strike, Asarco claims to have hired hundreds of “permanent replacement” workers to fill the jobs of striking union members.

On June 15, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a sweeping complaint against Asarco alleging numerous violations of federal labor laws, including an overall failure to bargain in good faith with the Unions, illegally declaring an impasse in negotiations and unilaterally implementing changes to the working conditions.

The NLRB complaint also alleges the striking employees have been on an Unfair Labor Practice Strike.

In light of the NLRB’s decision to prosecute Asarco for alleged violations of federal labor laws, we believe that our greatest bargaining leverage is to end the current ULP strike and make an unconditional offer to return to work. The Union has informed Asarco of this decision and has said that the strike and all picketing activities will end on Monday, July 6, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. Arizona time and 10:00 a.m. Texas time. The Union has offered to meet with Asarco about the manner in which the return-to-work would be accomplished.

Under existing NLRB case authority, if ULP strikers end their strike and make an unconditional offer to return to work, the company is supposed to return them to their pre-strike jobs, or, if pre-strike jobs have been changed, to similar jobs. If a company refuses to reinstate the returning ULP strikers based on the company’s claim they have been permanently replaced, the returning ULP strikers are entitled to potential backpay from the company. The potential backpay adds up for every day that the company refuses to make a lawful reinstatement offer to ULP strikers. In addition, for any strikers who are returned to work, the Company will owe damages to workers who are forced to work under the Company’s unlawfully implemented offer, including for the higher insurance premiums that are part of that offer.

The NLRB also alleges striking workers have been on an unfair labor practice strike.

It's not clear if ASARCO will accept the unions offer to return to work.

Stay with News 4 Tucson for the latest developments.

Denelle Confair

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