Steel Mills

USW Prepping for Summer Contract Talks with U.S. Steel, Cliffs

Written by Michael Cowden

The United Steelworkers (USW) union is preparing for contract talks this summer with U.S. Steel and with Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., a USW spokeswoman confirmed.

A text had been sent out to USW members earlier in the day on Thursday, March 24, alerting them that the USW was getting ready for negotiations.

USWThe USW contracts with Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel and Cleveland-based Cliffs are separate. But the spokeswoman said she believed both expired on Sept. 1.

U.S. Steel’s four-year labor agreement with the USW, negotiated in 2018, does indeed expire on Sept. 1, 2022, according to the company’s most recent 10-K filing.

“To the extent that successor agreements or extensions are not agreed upon as of this date, there exists a potential risk of labor disruption at covered plants,” the company said in the filing.

Cliff’s 10-K says that the company has 10 agreements expiring in 2022 and three in 2023. It does not specify an exact date on when the steel contract with the USW expires.

Steel and iron ore contracts, for example, are negotiated on different timelines.

Cliffs employs 26,000 people, 18,500 of whom are represented by unions – including not only the USW but also the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the International Association of Machinists (AIM) as well as several smaller unions.

The prior round of USW talks, in 2018, were contentious and continued well beyond Sept. 1 deadlines. The union authorized strikes at U.S. Steel and at the former ArcelorMittal USA – now owned by Cliffs.

Cliffs agreed to a new contract in October 2018, followed by U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal USA in November of that year.

Union members at the time felt that wages should be higher in part because of a surge in steel prices following the implementation of Section 232 tariffs in March 2018.

HRC prices jumped to $915 per ton in July of 2018, their highest point since the summer of 2008, when they hit $1,070 per ton, according to SMU’s interactive pricing tool.

Prices now are substantially higher: $1,400 per ton in SMU’s last check of the market, or 53% above that 2018 peak.

By Michael Cowden,

Michael Cowden

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