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Unions lay off workers. . . . The United Steelworkers has advised unions representing its clerical, technical, and other white-collar employees that layoffs are ahead on March 1.

USW's support staff of 1,400 employees will be cut by 200, if possible through a voluntary early retirement plan. Union membership has dropped as a result of heavy layoffs in the steel industry, now operating at only about a third of capacity. USW has deficits exceeding $1 million a month.

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''When you lose a third of your dues-paying members, what can you expect?'' asks USW treasurer Frank McGee.

The union was far from broke last July, when operating reserves were at $41 million. However, that total is going down steadily, which has led to decisions to make a substantial cutback in payrolls.

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