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Steel Workers Vote to Authorize Strike

Monday, September 10, 2018

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As contract negotiations between United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel continue, steelworkers in and around Pittsburgh voted Thursday (Sept. 6) to allow the union to call for a strike if necessary.

During the Thursday meeting, steel workers from union chapters of Edgar Thomson Steel Works in Braddock, Pennsylvania, and Irvin Works in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, unanimously confirmed that they were ready to strike if officials do not reach a compromise soon. The company’s recently revised pay and benefits package was dubbed “far from fair.”

Steel Worker Strike

According to TribLIVE, the last three years have seen back-to-back wage freezes. U.S. Steel’s most recent contract renewal proposal included a seven-year contract extension, which breaks down to 3.5 percent raises this year, 2 percent raises the following year and 1 percent raises in 2020. The latest round of contracts were approved in 2015, and expired in the beginning of the month.

In the updated contract offer, the company calls for a six-year extension with a 4 percent raise in the first year that declines to a 3 percent raise in the second year and a 1 percent raise for the following three years. There is also the possibility of earning an additional 5 percent bonus. The healthcare benefits part of the package have also raised ire among steelworkers, as cost would amount to $2,000 or $4,000 more per year for families by the end of the contract period. Previously, U.S. Steel had covered employee healthcare completely.

In response, U.S. Steel has offered incentives including $6,000 in profit sharing and a $5,000 “health care transition bonus.”

The union prefers a three-year contract extension. Criticism from the union hinges upon the idea that the company is trying to get a long-term, cheaper deal with some upfront money, to distract employees from long-term costs.

With the new tariffs on the table, the union claims that company executives are capitalizing on the opportunity.

Steelworkers employed with Illinois-based Granite City Works also recently approved a strike authorization. In response to the activity of Pittsburgh workers, U.S. Steel noted that it did not anticipate a strike and that attempts to negotiate were being made.

“Nobody wants to strike, no one benefits, but if it’s the only way to get the message across, it’s what we have to do,” steelworker Mark Bukk told KDKA TV.

   

Tagged categories: Business operations; Contracts; U.S. Steel; Workers

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (9/10/2018, 11:24 AM)

*Shakes his head* Why am I not surprised in the least. Eliminate the foreign competition and the locals immediately go for the money. Doesn't matter whether it is management or the union getting greedy, it's a far cry from "make America great again" and does nothing to build the industry or help those looking at pink slips as steel for their construction jobs is delayed.


Comment from Jerry Trevino, (9/11/2018, 9:32 AM)

What will happen when a new administration supports the previous trade agreements? Will everyone take a payout or return the profit sharing and bonuses? If Dems will all this tariffs will probably be reversed.


Comment from leon Fotakos, (9/11/2018, 9:48 AM)

Wow, shaking my head. How people can read a relatively short article and not understand what is written. So I guess going several years without a raise has something to do with eliminating foreign competition?? I guess asking for a raise is greedy especially when you go a couple of years without one. Stop inserting politics into the conversation. You don't know what you are talking about.


Comment from Michael Halliwell, (9/12/2018, 11:26 AM)

Ieon, I have had a fair bit of union experience in my past (including wage frozen contracts and contracts that were 0%-0%-1%). Cheap foreign competition is part of what kept the wages frozen (a Chinese steel worker makes pennies on the dollar to a US steel worker)...that is part of why the tariffs were brought in. I also have noted the steps certain leading companies in the steel industry have done since the tariffs have gone in. The politicking was supposed to provide an environment of growth by eliminating cheap supply and keeping demand...and the US steel firms have been active in trying to ensure this is the case by intervening in exemption cases. I would hope that those same companies would invest in growth and build their operations to meet demand (and put more steel workers to work while keeping bridge workers and other construction workers employed). Last quarter, US Steel had massive profits...if we're not hearing about some massive upgrades / new plant projects in the steel industry and the union is only being offered cost-of-living level increases (though I agree the health coverage changes are a problem) then someone is playing with a lot of cash. The union wants it (in more than cost-of-living wage increases while keeping benefits), the shareholders and execs want it (dividends and bonuses) but where the country needs it is not where it is going (increasing production to get closer to meeting the demand). It's not just the guys on the shop floor in this conversation...thanks to your President, the politics and national/global economics impacts are everywhere.


Comment from K Sanchez, (9/12/2018, 11:33 AM)

This is not about politics, but economics, which involves commerce. They are not asking for a raise, but demanding it. If they are not productive enough to offset their additional pay, I would suggest it is not only very greedy, but also harmful to their employment status. Economics 101. If the workers want higher pay, they should be able to offer higher production as part of the contract. I doubt any business would turn down that offer. The tariff is supposed to be short term to encourage free trade. When the tariff goes away, jobs will be lost if the pay is not competitive with production. If the tariffs stay, Americans will have to subsidize their pay with higher steel prices - another bad option.


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