The nearly month-long strike by Teamsters steelhaulers wound down yesterday after the union's largest steelhauling local voted to end the walkout and dissident leaders urged a return to work.
"Most steel carriers have signed the tentative agreement and granted our major demands," said the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a dissident group that spearheaded the walkout by many of the Teamsters' 15,000 militant steekhaulers.
The strike, concentrated largely in Pennsylvania and Ohio, idled roughly 6,000 steelworkers as mill yards became choked with finished steel and production had to be cut back. It is expected to take several days to remove the stored steel and return production to normal.
Members of at least two big steelhauling units, including Local 800 with 1,600 members in Pittsburgh, voted Sunday to go back to work, and drivers in some other cities were reported to be returning.
The steelhaulers' walkout was a kind of aftershock from a 10-day strike called by the Teamsters union before it settled on a new master freight agreement to cover 300,000 drivers and warehouse workers. The steelhaulers defied a back-to-work order by the union, even after three of the four major employer bargaining groups came to agreement.
The steelhaulers reportedly won major compensation gains but fell short of winning their demand to vote separately on their own contract provisions. Under Teamster rules, all workers covered by the master agreement and its supplements vote on all contract items.
Ballots of ratification of the overall Teamster agreement have been mailed and are expected to be counted late next week.
The general contract provides wage and benefit increases of about 30 percent over three years. Under the steelhaulers' agreement, an owner-operator's earnings for hauling a 50,000-pound load of steel from Pittsburgh to Chicago would increase from $460 to $521, and the driver of a company truck would earn $185 rather than $159 for the same trip, according to a union official.