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U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal both propose cutting health care benefits

Union members rally in August for a fair contract outside ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago in 2015.

ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel collectively made more than $2.1 billion in profit last quarter, when steel prices hovered over a robust $900 a ton and tariffs slowed the near-record tide of cheap imports.

U.S. Steel announced Thursday it would invest $750 million in Gary Works, and ArcelorMittal said earlier in the week it would spend $330 million to expand a plant in Brazil.

But the steelmakers are saying health insurance costs for U.S. employees and retirees are too high.

U.S. Steel proposed cutting retiree health care benefits earlier this week, the United Steelworkers union said in an update to members. And ArcelorMittal continued to push for health care cuts that could end up costing Northwest Indiana families up to $8,000 per year in out-of-pocket costs.

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"Negotiations continued with ArcelorMittal this week in Pittsburgh, and as has been the cast since our talks began, management continues to be slow to respond to our proposals while insisting on unreasonable concessions — particularly in the area of health care," USW international leadership said in an update to its members. "We have made little progress with regard to our reasonable wage requests, and the company still has not responded to our pension proposal or adequately addressed our concerns about future capital expenditures, the apparently diminishing emphasis on repair and maintenance spending and manning issues, all of which are geared toward improving the long-term security of our jobs."

The union is currently negotiating with both ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, with the current contract expiring this fall. Both ArecelorMittal and U.S. Steel have said they hope for contracts that would keep them competitive, but routinely decline to comment on ongoing contract negotiations.

After agreeing to no pay raises during the last round of negotiations, the USW has been pushing to share in the companies' rising fortunes now that the cyclical industry has turned around.

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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.