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Steelworkers planning rally over layoffs

The United Steelworkers union will rally in downtown Gary and march to the U.S. Steel Gary Works gate to protest the recent layoffs of maintenance workers.

The United Steelworkers union is planning a rally this afternoon in downtown Gary to protest the recent layoffs of maintenance workers at Gary Works.

The union says U.S. Steel did not have the right under the contract to lay off 38 maintenance workers two weeks ago. Steelworkers say the steelmaker has since laid off another 25 and displaced as many as 40 more workers into a labor gang, where they make $7 to $9 less per hour.

USW is appealing the layoffs to a third-party arbiter.

U.S. Steel has declined to comment on the layoffs or the rally.

The union blames the job losses on the Chicago-based consulting firm McKinsey & Co. for recommending U.S. Steel lay off maintenance workers and hire contractors to cut down on fixed costs. Mike Millsap, United Steelworkers District 7 director, said the move violated the steelmaker’s contract with USW and could make the mills less safe because there would be less preventative maintenance.

The troubled steelmaker lost $1.5 billion last year and has failed to turn a profit in five of the last six years. U.S. Steel laid off about a quarter of its salaried workforce — roughly 750 managers, supervisors and other white-collar workers — in April.

U.S. Steel laid off more than 1,000 workers in Northwest Indiana — both union and salaried — last year.

“McKinsey/USS puts profits before safety,” a union flier for the rally said. “USW fights for safety first, profits second.”

The rally will take place at 3 p.m. at the parking lot of the US Steel Yard at 1 Stadium Plaza in downtown Gary. Steelworkers will march from there to the Gary Works mill at the end of Broadway.

USW held similar rallies during contract negotiations last year, with thousands of workers gathering in Gary, East Chicago, Burns Harbor and the Crown Point courthouse square.

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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.