More than 400 metalworkers have gone on an indefinite strike at the French-owned Constellium aluminum plant in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The workers, who are organized under the United Steelworkers (USW) union, walked off the job last Tuesday night following an overwhelming strike vote.
The strike was called after negotiations between the USW and Constellium dragged on for “several months” before the contract expired on Nov. 1, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Workers are on strike against unfair labor practices and proposed health care cuts. USW District 9 Director Daniel Filippo claimed that Constellium’s proposals “would undo decades of progress on issues including safety and seniority to give management ‘unchecked authority’ to decide who works and when.”
Constellium acquired the Muscle Shoals plant from Wise Metals in 2015 through a $1.4 billion takeover of the latter company. Workers at the Muscle Shoals plant produce sheet metal primarily used for beverage cans. The plant manufactures under contracts for highly profitable companies, including Budweiser. Demand for aluminum cans in the beverage industry has increased since the pandemic began, according to Bloomberg.
Workers describe brutal work schedules and dangerous conditions at the Muscle Shoals plant on the job website indeed.com:
“Management and human resources are completely clueless. There’s little to no room for growth, if you’re not part of the good old boy system consider yourself screwed. I would advice anyone applying to RUN. The company itself has changed ownership 3 times within the last decade.”
“Lots of walking and carrying tools for long periods of time. Cumbersome areas to navigate. Slippery floors, nasty air, tight spots to get in. Lots of climbing.”
“The company could care less about their employees. We are on a 7 day rotation which means we work 7 in a row just to get 2 days off. I have only had one Christmas Day off in 8 years. They do not let you off for holidays. Not any holidays but management is off for all holidays.”
Workers at the plant in Alabama, along with 13,000 of their brothers and sisters at Constellium’s 25 plants across the North America, Europe and China, work for low wages under dangerous conditions to line the pockets of the company’s executive management and top shareholders. Constellium CEO Jean-Marc Germain was compensated $6,558,230 in the past year, according to wallmine.com. In contrast, some assemblers at the Muscle Shoals plant earn as little as $12.00 per hour.