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USW workers vote for ArcelorMittal contract

Members of the United Steelworkers rally at the ArcelorMittal steel mill in East Chicago last year during contract negotiations.

United Steelworkers members have voted overwhelmingly to approve a new three-year deal with ArcelorMittal, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers.

A total of 5,059 USW members, or 72.9 percent, voted for the contract, while 1,878 workers voted against it. 

"I feel we got the best deal we could under the circumstances, each contract negotiation is a snapshot in time and we were bargaining in some real bad times for steel," USW Local 1010 President Tom Hargrove said. "We will be back at the table in two years. Hopefully conditions will be better."

The contract includes no raises but has bonuses if hot-rolled steel prices average over $600 a ton per quarter. The company will close several finishing lines at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago but will invest $2.5 billion in its American operations. Health care costs will rise, including a 42 percent jump in premiums for retirees.

Negotiated for more than a year, the deal covers more than 14,000 hourly workers at ArcelorMittal's 15 U.S. plants, including in East Chicago, Gary, Burns Harbor and Riverdale.

 “We have settled our differences with management at the table, so together now we can focus on addressing the industry’s real problems, such as global overcapacity and the unfair and often illegal foreign trade practices that depress prices, close plants and cost jobs,” USW International President Leo W. Gerard said. “The USW negotiating committee, activists and members at each of the facilities deserve our thanks and credit for staying united throughout the long, difficult process.”

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USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap was on the delegation that helped negotiate the deal in Pittsburgh.

“For generations, our families have worked in these plants and established a way of life,” Millsap said. “We are confident that as long as we work together and fight for fair trade instead of free trade, the steel industry will continue to provide good jobs that support families and sustain communities with fair pay and benefits.”

ArcelorMittal said it was pleased to have a new agreement after 10 months of negotiations.

"ArcelorMittal extends our appreciation to our employees, customers and community members for their patience and commitment during this process," spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford said. "We are pleased that we were able to negotiate in good faith with the USW to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement while avoiding unnecessary impact on our employees and their families, our customers and our communities."

Holdford said the contract will make the company stronger.

"ArcelorMittal is committed to working with the USW to implement the agreements made in the new contract," she said. "Like any negotiation, the new contract represents compromise for both parties but serves as a platform for achieving a more sustainable and successful business here in the United States."

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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.