USW leader: ArcelorMittal should follow U.S. Steel's lead

Charea Jones, foreground, education coordinator for U.S. Steel District 7, helps lead chants as steelworkers rally and march together outside U.S. Steel Gary Works in late August.

ArcelorMittal should follow U.S. Steel's lead and strike an agreement that steelworkers can accept, because the union won't agree to concessions, United Steelworkers District 7 Director Mike Millsap said.

"Our members and leadership stood up and sent a very strong message to USS and Mittal that they are the union and they are not taking any concessions at a time when the company is profitable," said Millsap, who's also on the union's bargaining committee in Pittsburgh.

Millsap said U.S. Steel recognized union members "for the hard and dangerous work that they do and the sacrifices that they made in the past," including a three-year wage freeze the union agreed to in 2015 when the industry was experiencing a downturn.

"ArcelorMittal needs to recognize, like USS did, that we are not accepting concessions," Millsap said.

The steelworkers and U.S. Steel reached a tentative four-year pact this week that includes a 4 percent raise the first year, 3.5 percent raises in 2019 and 2020 and a 3 percent raise in 2021, according to a union message to steelworkers. The agreement also includes a $4,000 signing bonus and preservation of existing health care benefits, with a second health care plan option.

The four-year pact would cover 16,000 steelworkers nationwide, including thousands at Gary Works, East Chicago Tin and the Midwest Plant in Portage.

“U.S. Steel began this process insisting upon deep concessions from a group of workers who had already made major sacrifices to help the company through a very difficult time,” USW International President Leo Gerard said. “It’s a testament to the power of solidarity that these workers were able to stand up with one voice and demand fair treatment.”

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The USW plans to bring the proposal before its members for a ratification vote.

“Every member of this union should be proud of what we’ve accomplished,” USW International Vice President and Bargaining Committee Chairman Tom Conway said. “This group of workers stood up to a hugely profitable company and demanded a piece of the success they helped to create.”

The union reached a tentative deal with U.S. Steel after its members overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike last month, giving the union some leverage when the two sides returned to the bargaining table.

"I can say that the tentative agreement is fair and we fought off the concessions that USS was demanding from my members and retirees," Millsap said.

ArcelorMittal has been asking for similar concessions on health care, asking workers to pay thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket costs. The Luxembourg-based steelmaker said it's trying to become more cost-competitive with other U.S. steelmakers, including minimills.

ArcelorMittal spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford declined to comment other than to say negotiations were ongoing.


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.