Steel Mills

USW Charges ArcelorMittal is Forcing Workers Toward Strike

Written by Sandy Williams

Negotiations between United Steelworkers and ArcelorMittal have stalled on demands for deep concessions that workers consider unfair and unnecessary.

USW members agreed to not take a wage increase during the last three-year contract and have had a total wage increase of 4.5 percent since 2012, despite inflation increasing 8 percent. Other industries have seen wages rise by almost 15 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Union officials have rebuffed company proposals to reduce retiree health coverage while increasing premium contributions by 80 percent.

“If it were not for USW members foregoing increases in compensation in order to preserve retiree health care and pensions and to secure the future of our jobs and facilities by requiring management to invest in their mills and mines, the company would not be where it is today, “ said USW officials in a member update on Friday.

Workers unanimously approved a strike authorization when talks faltered in September. Although the company made a financial turnaround in 2015 and is showing strong profits, the union says that “ArcelorMittal’s persistent, onerous and unnecessary demands for concession” may leave its members no choice but to initiate a work stoppage.

“They are once again very profitable and stable and have chosen foolishly to pick a fight with us,” said the USW. “Management’s behavior is inexplicable and unacceptable, and they are provoking a confrontation that baffles industry observers and threatens their customer base, communities where they operate and obligations to their stakeholders.

“Rather than constructively pursuing a settlement that would allow the company, its workers and stakeholders to share in the gains of a strong American steel industry, ArcelorMittal management is provoking a work stoppage that promises to bring pain to the communities in which it operates.”

ArcelorMittal did not respond to Steel Market Update’s request for comment.

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