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ArcelorMittal, United Steelworkers union reach tentative agreement

Steelworkers march and rally together for a fair contract in downtown Gary in late August.

ArcelorMittal and the United Steelworkers union have reached a tentative agreement that covers 15,000 steelworkers nationwide, including thousands in Northwest Indiana.

Workers must vote on whether they want to ratify the four-year contract that "mirrors the industry standard on wages, lump-sum payments and pensions, and maintains or improves our existing health insurance benefits for active and retired steelworkers and their dependents," according to the USW. 

After months of negotiations, ArcelorMittal followed U.S. Steel's lead and offered a $4,000 signing bonus, a 4-percent raise the first year, 3.5-percent raises the next two years and a 3-percent raise in 2021, as well as no increases in health care premiums.

“Our committee’s hard work and dedication have resulted in tentative agreements with ArcelorMittal,” USW International President Leo Gerard said. “Our members’ unwavering solidarity throughout the bargaining process in the face of management’s persistent concessionary demands has been rewarded with contracts that recognize the pivotal role steelworkers have played in the company’s success.”

The union is preparing a detailed contract summary it will mail to steelworkers' homes, and will have meetings laying out the specifics at local union halls, including in Hammond and Burns Harbor.

Steelworkers had voted to authorize a strike, threatening the largest work stoppage in the domestic steel industry since 1986, in response to requested concessions that would have cut benefits for workers and retirees.

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USW members sought more pay after agreeing to freeze wages for three years during the last round of contract talks in 2015 to help steelmakers survive a severe downturn in the industry that resulted in thousands of layoffs nationwide.

“From our first meeting with the company until our last, management challenged us every step of the way,” USW Direct 7 Director Mike Millsap said. “The vocal and visible unity of our membership gave our committee the strength we needed to resist the company’s proposed cutbacks and fight for the issues important to our members, retirees and their families and communities.”

Workers can soon expect to get mail-in ballots and instructions on how to vote.

“Through their hard work and sacrifices to improve the productivity and efficiency of our facilities, USW members earned the right to share in the company’s success,”  USW District 1 Director and Bargaining Committee Chair David McCall said. “We have negotiated fair agreements that improve wages and benefits while preserving retiree health care provisions and bolstering the protections afforded by our contract language.”

The new deal would replace the contract that expired on Sept. 1, if ratified within about 30 days.

“We are pleased to have a new, tentative agreement with our partners at the USW and believe we have reached a fair and positive outcome for all parties involved without disruption to our business operations,” said John Brett, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA. “We are unable to comment on specific details out of respect for the ratification process. We extend our appreciation to our employees, customers and the community for their patience and commitment during the negotiation process.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.