·  Manny Armenta

Steelworkers at Asarco Win Pension Benefits for 19 Former Workers at El Paso Smelter

El Paso, Texas – Nineteen members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union who were employed at the Asarco smelter in El Paso will receive full pension benefits as a result of an arbitrator’s decision issued late last week.

“Each of these former employees worked at the El Paso smelter for over 20 years,” said Bob LaVenture, USW District 12 Director.  “They should have received these benefits eight years ago. It is unfortunate that it took so long, but we are glad that they will finally receive the pensions they were due.”

Asarco suspended operations at its copper smelter in El Paso, Texas in February 1999, laying off 350 employees. Approximately 100 employees retired in the two years following the curtailment, and the USW bargained early retirement benefits for other long-term employees affected by the layoff in June 2001.  However, after the agreement was reached, the company and USW disagreed on whether eligibility for the early retirement benefits was to be measured as of the last day worked or the date of the June 30, 2001 labor agreement.  The dispute was tied up for years in litigation, until last week when an arbitrator ruled that the nineteen workers are entitled to monthly pension benefits, retroactive to June 30, 2001.

“Because of the passage of time, many of these former employees may have forgotten about this dispute,” LaVenture said. “I am proud that the USW never gave up and continued to fight for their benefits. This is what unions are all about.”

Each of the eligible former retirees will receive a pension of approximately $800 per month, monthly supplement of $300 until age 62 and retiree health care benefits.

On February 3, 2009, Asarco LLC announced that it would not reopen the El Paso smelter, ending several years of controversy over the restart of the facility and renewal of its air permits.  Asarco filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on August 9, 2005.

Former Asarco employees with questions about their pension benefits should contact the Company at (520) 798-7500 for more information or to update the pension plan administrator on changes in address or apply for benefits.

The USW represents hourly employees at the Asarco facilities in Amarillo, Texas; Hayden, Arizona (Hayden smelter and Ray copper mine); Sahuarita, Arizona (Mission mine); and Marana, Arizona (Silver Bell mine).

Contacts: Manny Armenta 520-465-3617

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