USA: 18,000 steelworkers approve 3-year contract


IndustriALL affiliate United Steelworkers (USW) union have ratified a new three-year contract with U.S. Steel covering 18,000 workers at more than a dozen facilities across the United States.

Earlier this month USW members voted by a greater than 2-to-1 margin to approve the contract, which will take effect immediately. The parties had reached a tentative agreement in December last year after six months of often difficult negotiations during an extremely challenging environment for steelmakers across the country.

While the new agreement includes modest changes to active and retiree health care coverage, the union was able to fight off the company’s demands for significant premium contributions, as well as other large-scale out-of-pocket increases.

The contract keeps wages at their current level, but includes an increase in the USW’s profit-sharing percentage, which will allow workers to receive payments when the company bounces back from the current crisis. The agreement also resets supplemental unemployment benefits for laid-off workers.

Over the past year, illegally low-priced imports from China and elsewhere, along with global overcapacity and a decline in oil and gas drilling brought on by lower fuel prices, drove prices and demand for steel down and led U.S. Steel and other companies to idle plants and lay off workers at factories around the country.

“The past year has been a difficult one for the steel industry, for USW members, and for manufacturing towns all across this country,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “The key to weathering this crisis is not to attack each other, but to work together to find solutions to our common problems - namely the severe imbalance and unfairness in our trade system. This must be our shared goal as we move forward.”

“This is a great victory and shows determination and competence in defending union members,” says IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Fernando Lopes. “Now it’s time to overcome the intransigence of Arcelor-Mittal and conclude the negotiations on a new and fair contract.”