Steelworkers ratify contract with U.S. Steel

2 February 2016

United Steelworkers Union members Monday ratified a new three-year contract with U.S. Steel by a 2-1 margin, exactly five months after the former contract expired.

The contract takes effect immediately and covers 18,000 workers at more than a dozen facilities across the nation, including employees at US Steel's Gary Works mill, East Chicago's tin mill and Midwest Plant and Chrome Deposit Corp., both in Portage.

The union members mailed their ballots to the USW office in Pittsburgh, which tallied them on Monday.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement in December following six months of negotiations during a challenging time for U.S. steelmakers, who are battling global overcapacity, low-priced steel from China and other countries and a decline in and oil and gas drilling. Some steel companies have had to idle plants and lay off workers across the country.

USW members at ArcelorMittal, which has mills in East Chicago and Burns Harbor, have yet to reach a tentative agreement and continue meeting at the bargaining table in Pittsburgh.

"We are pleased with the outcome of the ratification vote. We believe these three-year agreements are in the best interests of our company, our employees and all of our stakeholders," U. S. Steel President and Chief Executive Officer Mario Longhi said.

Mike Millsap, USW District 7 director and secretary of the bargaining committee, said the union looks forward to working with U.S. Steel to address the industry's trade imbalance and to position the company and its work force for future success.

"We are proud of the productive relationship we've built with U.S. Steel," Millsap said. "We hope to build on it as we move forward from what has been a very challenging year."

The agreements, which are effective retroactive to Sept. 1, contain no-strike provisions. They provide for certain benefit adjustments for current and future employees and retirees as well as modifications to the profit sharing plan beginning in 2016, according to the steel company.

Neither William McCall, president of USW Local 1066 in Gary, nor Rodney Lewis, president of USW Local 1014 in Gary, could be reached for comment Monday. The union said while the new agreement includes modest changes to active and retiree health care coverage, there will be no significant premium contributions or 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 the union said 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.

The USW said U.S. Steel's initial proposal included major cuts in pay and benefits, changes to work rules and other concessions that could have cost workers and their families thousands of dollars per year

"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."

"I am extremely proud of the solidarity and the commitment to fairness that the Steelworkers showed throughout this process," said USW International Vice President Tom Conway, who led the union's bargaining committee. "These hard-working men and women were determined not to be made scapegoats for what is a global crisis."