Workers vote to save their jobs

Steel workers at Weirton Steel in Weirton, W. Va., voted overwhelmingly Friday to buy the vast steel company. The move ended 18 months of uncertainty about the future of the plant, which employs 7,100 and has 2,600 others on layoff, Monitor contributor Ed Townsend writes.

Meanwhile, approaching a similar problem in another way, workers at the Ford Motor Company's Rouge Steel plant outside Detroit approved by a vote of 5,788 to 3,033 an agreement between Ford and the United Auto Workers that will cut wages and benefits by $4 an hour. Ford had announced it would close the plant within a year unless workers agreed to concessions. The vote means Ford will not have to close plants.

The Weirton action will create the country's largest employee-owned company if the agreement, approved by a more than 5-to-1 margin, is not upset in a number of pending lawsuits. Under a stock-ownership plan - described in financial circles as ''worker capitalism'' - a new employee-owned Weirton Corporation will acquire all assets of the present Weirton division of National Steel Corporation, valued at $386.2 million.

In an initial move to cut labor costs, hourly paid workers agreed to accept smaller paychecks and there will be fewer benefits. Take-home pay of $800 to $ 850 every two weeks probably will drop to about $650. No wage increases will be given for six years. Strikes and employer walkouts will be forbidden during that period.

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