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U.S. Steel workers at Fairfield and Minntac vote unanimously to authorize a strike

Steelworkers march in Gary last week as contract negotiations with U.S. Steel continue.

U.S. Steel workers in Gary; Clairton, Pennsylvania; Keetac in Minnesota; Lorain, Ohio; and at Great Lakes Works in Michigan cast ballots Wednesday on whether to authorize a strike if the United Steelworkers union and the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker can't reach a deal for a new contract.

The two sides continue to talk even after the current three-year contract expired on Sept. 1.

"We do not anticipate a strike," U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan Cox said in a statement. "Our plants continue to operate in a safe and orderly fashion. Talks are ongoing, and we continue to work diligently to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion."

USW members at Fairfield Works in Alabama and Minntac in Minnesota voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize a strike. Voting continues through Friday, including among USW Local 6103 workers at the Midwest Plant in Portage on Thursday.

"My members have sacrificed pay raises and took benefit cuts to help US Steel through a difficult time from 2012-2017," USW Local 6103 President Michael Young said. "This company is set to make record profits and we, as the ones who make the product, aim to share in that profitability. While we took those cuts and forewent raises, U.S. Steel’s corporate management paid themselves handsome bonuses while our company bled cash. The USW has been at the forefront of the fight for a fair playing field globally."

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The USW objects to proposed cuts in health insurance and retiree benefits, as well as the phasing out of annual pay raises in favor of profit-sharing bonuses

"The USW doesn’t want this fight," Young said. "We came to the bargaining table in good faith expecting to be rewarded for our hard work on cost-cutting initiatives, legislation in Washington, and economic sacrifices ... We will not leave our retirees behind or throw away the future of younger steelworker generations for money upfront in the form of bonuses that really amount to a wage decrease when coupled with the rest of the company proposal. We hope to work toward a resolution with U.S. Steel but we will not shy away from a fight for what is true and just."

The USW would have to give U.S. Steel 48 hours notice if it does end up striking, so the steelmaker can safely shut operations down.

The results of voting at the Gary Works locals were not available by press time Wednesday.

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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.