A major supplier of stainless steel may be back up to full speed soon. What does this mean for you? We think it’s good news. We’ve been monitoring the change in the market, due to the fact that we deal almost exclusively in domestic material from here in the United States.

Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) is a major supplier of specialty steel, so when their production is affected, everyone’s bound to feel a pinch. Now after six months of disagreement, ATI and United Steelworkers have reached a tentative agreement on the Allegheny steel lockout.

There are always two (or more) sides to an argument, so we’re not taking sides… we’re just happy to hear there may be an end in sight. Although ATI has issued statements that production was not affected during the lockout (due to using non-union workers), we did experience some change.

Our president, Robin Tackett, noticed the change whether she was talking directly with our mill suppliers or large metal distributors. “It was a very real thing in the past months, that we were seeing a scarcity of certain grades,” she said recently. “Not only was production affected, but the very idea that production might not keep up with demand was often cited as people were quoting higher prices. Not knowing how long the negotiations were going to go on created a lot of uncertainty.”

 

Which grades of stainless saw the biggest impact?

With production affected by the lockout, there have been some shortages or price spikes. We’ve seen fluctuations in nickel grades and the PH (Precipitation Hardening) grades.

“ATI is the biggest and in some cases the only supplier with quality specifications that end users like GE and Pratt Whitney require,” said sales associate Trevor Cockayne. “So in some cases, you’re looking at additional testing on non-ATI material. For them (ATI) to be back at full speed will mean more stability in the market for certain nickel grades, and other grades where end users require certain quality specifications.”

New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse wrote in December, 2015: “Since Aug. 15, Allegheny has locked out 2,200 workers at 12 plants in six states in what has become one of the nation’s largest and longest work stoppages in years.”

On February 22, United Steelworkers issued a statement that they had reached a tentative agreement with ATI on a new four-year contract. The approval process that follows will probably take several weeks as local unions ratify the contract and back-to-work agreements.

You can be sure that Slice of Stainless will be following the progress of the approval process. We’ll keep you posted!

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