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IAM, WSLC seek federal help for Alcoa’s Intalco workers

As efforts to avoid the smelter’s shutdown continue, labor petitions for TAA benefits


FERNDALE, Wash. (May 21, 2020) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO has assisted the International Association of Machinists in seeking federal help for some 700 employees at Alcoa’s Intalco Works aluminum smelter in Ferndale, where the company plans to curtail operations by late July. The WSLC’s Workforce Development Department has worked with the IAM to file a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) petition that would provide laid-off Alcoa workers with the additional training opportunities and enhanced unemployment benefits to help the affected families.

The IAM, WSLC and local congressional leaders are continuing to urge the company to reconsider the shutdown and for the Trump administration to immediately act to address the trade rules that have restricted domestic aluminum production and harmed the Intalco Works smelter’s ability to be profitable. On Wednesday, the IAM launched a new petition to Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers to fight to avoid the plant’s closure.

TAKE A STAND — Please join the IAM in asking asking Washington state legislators and Gov. Inslee to use all existing avenues to save these jobs and this strategically important industry. Click here to take action.

However, given Alcoa’s continued insistence that the smelter will shut down, advocates for these 700 workers and their families want to make sure they get the most help possible.

“Our first priority is always to seek creative ways to avoid plant closure and retain good family-wage jobs like those at Intalco Works,” said Bill Messenger, Workforce Development Director for the WSLC. “But in case those efforts are unsuccessful, we worked with IAM District Lodge 160 to file and support this TAA petition. We want to make sure these folks have access to all of the job retraining and reemployment program opportunities that are available.”

On Wednesday, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1st) and Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd) wrote to U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia in support of the TAA petition for Intalco workers.

“The Intalco plant is one of the largest employers in Whatcom County and supports many indirect jobs in addition to the 700 workers at the facility itself,” wrote the lawmakers. “Therefore, it is of paramount importance that these workers receive the retraining and reemployment resources available through TAA certification. Such a certification will allow them to get back on their feet more quickly, support their families, and continue making critical contributions to their communities and our economy.”

BACKGROUND — Here are some important facts about the Alcoa Intalco Works smelter, the aluminum industry, and the case for federal intervention to avoid the plant’s closure:

► There are three companies in the United States that operate seven primary aluminum smelters producing less than half of the U.S. domestic demand.

► China has more than 140 smelters producing well over half of the world’s demand for aluminum. Chinese overproduction and unfair subsidies drive down the market price of aluminum to unsustainable levels for U.S. producers forcing them out of the market.

► Alcoa’s announced curtailment of the Intalco smelter will cost 700 manufacturing jobs, directly impacting critical national security infrastructure. The cost to build a new smelter in the U.S. is prohibitive while China is able to add smelting capacity at a fraction of U.S. costs. Intalco is the last operating smelter on the West Coast and the largest by capacity in the U.S.

► Intalco is the only Aluminum smelter in the United States that has access to all modes of transportation; a deep water port, dedicated rail spur, and direct access to Interstate 5 between Canada and Mexico and has access to low carbon intensity hydro power. The plant is in the process of modernizing the potlines, which increases productivity, lowers costs, and reduces emissions and is also increasing its capability for aluminum scrap recycling.

► Increasing Chinese aluminum production increases the global environmental impact through the predominate use of coal fired electricity.

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