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Union hails new U.S. Steel contract that passed by 8-1 margin as a 'win-win'

U.S. Steel workers rally outside Gary Works for a fair contract in August.

After nearly five months of tough and sometimes contentious negotiations that had some workers clamoring for a strike, the United Steelworkers union said it ultimately agreed to a deal with U.S. Steel that will benefit both steelworkers and the company.

“This contract puts the company in a position to succeed and ensures that the workforce will be able to share in that success," said USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap, who was also secretary of the bargaining committee. "It’s a win-win."

The new four-year deal provides a cumulative pay increase of more than 14 percent over four years and a $4,000 signing bonus to more than 16,000 workers across the country, including at Gary Works, East Chicago Tin and the Midwest Plant in Portage. It goes into effect immediately and runs through Sept. 1, 2022.

USW Local 6103 President Michael Young said workers ratified the deal by an 8-1 margin.

"It was a tough fight but in the end we protected our retirees and got our fair share of the pie for active employees," Young said. "I’m very proud of our union for sticking together. Let this successful show of solidarity be an example of what workers can achieve when they have the audacity to demand better from their employers."

The union agreed to three years without raises when negotiating during the downturn of 2015, but expected to share in the company's prosperity now that market conditions have flipped in the notoriously boom-or-bust industry.

“In 2015, workers recognized that the steel industry was struggling and agreed to make sacrifices so that U.S. Steel could get through some tough times,” USW International President Leo Gerard said. “Now that the company has recovered and is projected to earn nearly $2 billion this year, workers rightly wanted a share of that success.”

U.S. Steel had sought concessions that would have cost steelworkers thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance. Union steelworkers responded by voting to authorize a strike at a time when steel prices were riding high, and U.S. Steel would potentially lose out on significant revenue.

“The strength and solidarity of the USW membership were the keys to achieving a fair agreement,” said USW International Vice President Tom Conway, chair of the union’s U.S. Steel bargaining committee.'

U.S. Steel CEO David Burritt said the deal was fair and in the best long-term interest of the company's shareholders.

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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.