October 31, 1990: Ravenswood Aluminum Workers Locked Out

Oct 31, 2017

On October 31, 1990, union workers at Ravenswood Aluminum arrived as usual for their midnight shift.

Only this time, they were turned away from the gates. Thus began one of the most bitter labor disputes of the late 20th century.

From the time Kaiser Aluminum opened the Ravenswood plant in 1954 until it sold its operations in 1988, there had never been a strike. But, workers felt that the new owners’ cost-cutting measures were jeopardizing their safety. In fact, four workers had been killed on the job just the summer before the conflict began.

The plant’s owners balked at the workers’ contract demands, locked them out of the plant, and hired replacement workers. As employees took to the picket lines, the conflict quickly grew ugly. Shootings, destruction of property, and other acts of violence tore the town of Ravenswood apart over the next 20 months.

The end came only when Ravenswood Aluminum officials feared a negative ruling from the federal National Labor Relations Board. They finally returned to the bargaining table in June 1992 and agreed to a settlement that allowed the union workers to return to work.