Steel Mills

USW Local at Algoma Authorizes Strike Ahead of July 31 Deadline

Written by Michael Cowden

The local United Steelworkers (USW) chapter representing hourly workers at Algoma Steel has voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike.

Local 2251 held a vote on the matter on Monday, July 4, and 99% voted in favor of a strike mandate, according to an update to union members.

 USWAlgoma, a Canadian sheet and plate mill, is represented by two unions: Local 2251, and Local 2724, which represents salaried workers.

Local 2724 will hold strike authorization votes on Wednesday and Thursday, July 6-7.

“A strike mandate vote is NOT a vote to strike. Rather, it is a vote to show the company that you support your bargaining team,” Local 2724 said in a letter to members.

“This will give us the power to show the company that our members stand behind us,” the union added.

The contract between Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario-based Algoma and the USW expires on July 31.

Algoma is an important supplier of sheet and plate not only to Canada but also to the Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the US.

Local USW chapters at Hamilton, Ontario-based Stelco – another Canadian flat-rolled steelmaker – are continuing negotiations with the company past the June 30 expiration of a prior labor agreement.

Also negotiating past the expiration of a previous labor pact are Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents more than 22,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports. That contract expired on Friday, July 1.

Labor agreements between the USW and US steelmakers Cleveland-Cliffs and US Steel don’t expire until Sept. 1.

Bread-and-butter issues such as wages and benefits are typically sticking points in any round of labor negotiations. This year’s contract talks have a new potential point of contention: the shift toward less carbon intensive EAF steelmaking at mills traditionally associated with the integrated route.

Local 2251 at Algoma, for example, has expressed concerns about potential job losses at the company’s coke batteries. And the USW at US Steel is upset that the company is investing in non-union EAF operations at what it sees at the expense of union-represented mills, most of which are integrated.

Algoma did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

By Michael Cowden,

Michael Cowden

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