11th hour for Alcoa

Alisa Roth May 31, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Aluminum maker Alcoa and the United Steel Workers are hoping to beat a deadline. The union contract expires tonight at midnight. Workers have given the green light to strike if no agreement is reached.

This has been a good year for Alcoa and the union wants to share in the higher profits. But Alisa Roth says the company might actually benefit from a strike.

ALISA ROTH: Alcoa wants union workers to switch from pensions to 401k retirement plans. And to start picking up some of the tab for their health care benefits. Members say Alcoa’s profits are up this year thanks to their hard work.

Nine thousand Alcoa workers say they’ll strike tonight if the two sides can’t reach an agreement on a new contract. A strike would shut 15 Alcoa plants across the country. Together they produce about 30 percent of Alcoa’s output.

Chuck Bradford is a metals analyst with Soleil Securities. He says Alcoa could end up benefiting from a walkout, even if others suffer.

CHUCK BRADFORD: The market price for aluminum might go up some. But at the same time, Alcoa might make more money because they’d be getting higher prices in those other plants.

Aluminum has been doing well. Regardless of the strike, Bradford thinks aluminum prices will keep going up because supplies aren’t keeping up with demand.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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