Steel Mills

What’s Next for Steel Mill Negotiations?

Written by Sandy Williams

Over the weekend ArcelorMittal walked away from the negotiating table with the United Steelworkers. The question now becomes, if the two sides are committed to their positions – especially on health care coverage and worker contributions (there are currently none)—will there be a lockout?

The union will not strike because they are being asked to give back benefits they earned in past negotiations. At the moment the workers are operating under the existing contract which is better than what management has proposed.

Questions are being asked as to what will happen to the workers should the companies take the steps necessary to lock them out of the mills?

During lockouts, temporary replacements that are hired must be discharged when regular employees return to work.

At US Steel, the union asserts that in the event of a lockout insurance coverage must continue until February 1, 2016—a position that may not be agreeable to the company. In the case of a strike, the coverage would last only 30 days.

At ArcelorMittal the insurance agreement is for “150 days from the date the Parties fail to reach an agreement” excluding S&A coverage (sickness and accidental).

COBRA coverage, the USW Emergency Medical Program and private coverage are available workers following the expiration dates.

A Strike and Defense Fund is maintained by the USW which pays $200 per week per member beginning in the fourth week of a strike or lockout. The money is distributed by local unions to the membership based on individual need.

Workers who are locked out of their jobs are eligible for unemployment benefits but receipt of the first payment check can take weeks. The rules concerning unemployment benefits and can vary from state to state.

There is really no winner in a strike or lockout. Concessions will be made by one or both sides but in the end a prolonged work stoppage hits both parties where it hurts—in the wallet.

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