United Steelworkers, ArcelorMittal reach tentative labor agreement

2012-09-08T20:00:00Z 2012-10-01T16:44:06Z United Steelworkers, ArcelorMittal reach tentative labor agreementBowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com
September 08, 2012 8:00 pm  • 

The United Steelworkers union said Saturday it has reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with ArcelorMittal USA, ending about three months of negotiations.

The deal covers nearly 14,000 employees at the company's 15 U.S. locations.

"After 10 long weeks of difficult negotiations that continued past the expiration of our previous contract, the hard work of our committee has resulted in a tentative agreement with ArcelorMittal," USW International President Leo Gerard said in a statement. "Our members' unwavering solidarity throughout the bargaining process in the face of management's high-risk scare tactics and demands for major cutbacks has been rewarded."

The agreement covers ArcelorMittal's flat carbon, long carbon and iron ore mining locations. Locally, ArcelorMittal has facilities in Burns Harbor, Gary, East Chicago and Riverdale. The company also has two joint venture operations in New Carlisle.

"We are pleased to have a new, tentative agreement with the USW and to have reached a fair and equitable outcome without disruption to our business operations," said Michael Rippey, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA. "We extend our appreciation to our employees, customers and the community for their patience and support during the negotiation process."

Negotiations often were contentious this summer as officials from the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers said they were blindsided by early proposals from ArcelorMittal. Drawing the ire of the union's bargaining team and its rank and file, the union said the company's proposals included reducing employee wage and benefit costs by more than $28 an hour, having the union waive its right to bargain for retiree health care in the future and eliminating retiree health care for employees hired after Sept. 1.

The previous four-year agreement expired Sept. 1, but it was held in effect while bargaining continued past the deadline. The previous agreement will be held in place until the new contract is ratified.

"Instead of approaching this round of bargaining with a commitment to the future for both the company and its employees and a desire to jointly identify and solve problems, ArcelorMittal demanded major concessions and sacrifices from its union workers," the union said in a note to members Saturday.

"Management's approach was detrimental to the long-term relationship between management and union — and it was dumb," the union said.

The union told its members Saturday that it defended itself against the company's desire to implement a two-tier wage system, maintained seniority rights and maintained limits on plant work done by outside contractors.

The contract also reportedly includes wage increases, improved "health care without making contributions," and commitments for capital investments in plants and improved training programs. Specific contract terms were not immediately released.

After union members receive a booklet explaining terms of the tentative agreement, ratification votes will be held over the next three weeks, said USW District 7 Director Jim Robinson. Robinson was secretary of the union's bargaining committee for the ArcelorMittal contract.

The union also praised its members for displays of solidarity during negotiations

The United Steelworkers reached a deal with United States Steel Corp. on Sept. 2.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated from a previous version.

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