Steel Mills

United Steelworkers Reject US Steel’s Latest Proposal

Written by David Schollaert

The United Steelworkers (USW) union has rejected US Steel’s latest labor proposal as tensions boil over and the two sides seem nowhere near to reaching a new agreement.

Union representatives called the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker’s latest proposal “a smack in the face” in a text sent to members on Sept. 29.

USWNegotiations are now a month past the original Sept. 1 expiration.

The USW remains concerned with non-competitive wage growth, and with what the union contends is a restricted healthcare network and caped costs — likely limiting coverage and driving premiums higher beyond 2022.

The USW did not comment but referred SMU to the text sent to members on Thursday.

“They changed their healthcare proposal so that nothing we have is guaranteed!” the USW text read. “In essence, their proposal is to take the cost of our healthcare in 2022… and cap their costs at that level.”

Union representatives argue that this would mean that “every year we will be expected to eat the rising cost of health care by reducing our benefits or paying premiums! We did not work hard to make USS record profits just to take a cut in healthcare,” the text said.

The union also said that US Steel decreased its “appreciation bonus” from $7,000 to $4,000 because the USW didn’t agree to the earlier proposal prior to expiration. The bonus, according to US Steel, would be payable upon ratification.

US Steel’s latest proposal offers “strong wage growth, strong upside opportunity and strong downside protection for our employees,” according to the company. It follows a recent complaint the steelmaker filed with the National Labor Relations Board against the USW on Sept. 26, claiming unfair labor practices against the union.

“We know that the steel industry can be volatile,” David Burritt, US Steel’s president, and CEO said in an update on the company’s website. “That is why our responsible compensation proposal of robust base wage increases, a guaranteed payable-now bonus, uncapped profit sharing, and inflation protection — combined with premium-free healthcare — is designed to support and reward employees through business cycles.”

The latest proposal also increased USW-represented employees’ base wage by nearly 15% compounded over the term of the contract, an increase from the original proposal of 11% but still behind the 20% wage increase Cleveland-Cliffs agreed to give its union workforce.

US Steel also said that the healthcare proposal provides consistency while also meeting its “needs to control costs,” but added that if costs rise, they will work with the USW to offset the costs.

Negotiations have been contentious and little-to-no progress has been made since the two sides began master bargaining in mid-July. They enter their fourth month of bargaining and are now one month past expiration.

Early last week US Steel filed unfair labor charges against the union, while the week prior the two sides traded blows on the issue of investments made by the steelmaker at its USW-represented mills.

The two sides resume negotiations newt week when the USW’s full bargaining committee travels to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Oct. 5, the union said in a text to members.

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

Read more from David Schollaert

Latest in Steel Mills