Thousands of members of the United Steelworkers union from across the United States voted overwhelmingly this week to authorize their bargaining committee to initiate a strike at U.S. Steel facilities. The committee could now call a strike if the company continues to demand deep concessions from its hourly work force.
Among those voting were the hundreds of workers who have returned this summer to Granite City Works, which had been idled for two years.
The union's collective bargaining agreements with U.S. Steel expired on Sept. 1, but union members have continued to work under the terms of an agreed-to extension. That agreement remains in effect with 48 hours' notice required for termination. The two sides have been negotiating since July.
"These workers have made a number of sacrifices over the past several years – including three years with a wage freeze – to put this company back on track," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "Now that U.S. Steel is expecting to make a profit of nearly $2 billion this year, it is time for the workers to share in the success U.S. Steel is seeing now."
Top company officials have given themselves more than $50 million in pay and bonuses since 2015 while the hourly work force has not received a wage increase over the same period.
"The USW did not come to the bargaining table looking for a fight," said USW International Vice President Tom Conway, who leads the union's bargaining committee. "We came ready to work out an honest and fair agreement, but that is a far cry from what the company is demanding. We remain prepared to work in good faith. We expect U.S. Steel to come to its senses and return to the bargaining table with workable proposals."
The company has proposed major increases in benefit costs for the work force, as well as other significant concessions that would reduce workers' overall take-home pay and eliminate a number of on-the-job protections. The two sides are scheduled to resume negotiations next week.
"With the company hugely profitable and industry conditions the best they have been in years, this is no time for U.S. Steel to pick a fight with workers who have been there to help them during the toughest times," said USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap. "It's time to come together and do what's right for these workers, their families and their communities."
The USW's master agreement with U.S. Steel covers a total of more than 16,000 workers at the following locations: Clairton Works (Pennsylvania), East Chicago Tin (Indiana), Fairfield (Alabama), Fairfield Southern (Alabama), Fairless Hills (Pennsylvania), Gary Works (Indiana), Granite City Works (Illinois), Great Lakes Works (Michigan), Keetac (Minnesota), Lone Star Tubular (Texas), Lorain Tubular (Ohio), Midwest Plant (Indiana), Minntac (Minnesota) and Mon Valley Works (Pennsylvania).
For bargaining updates and other information on the current negotiations, visit www.usw.org/steel.
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors.