Steel Mills

USW accuses USS of contract violations in Nippon Steel deal

Written by Laura Miller

The United Steelworkers (USW) union has accused U.S. Steel of labor contract violations as the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker pursues its potential sale to Nippon Steel.

On Thursday, Jan. 11, the union sent a letter to U.S. Steel’s President and CEO, David Burritt, requesting to begin the dispute resolution process as outlined in its basic labor agreements (BLA).

U.S. Steel has refused to keep the union updated on the sales process, failing to provide information on the bids received, the union said.

The ‘right-to-bid’ clause in the BLA remains a top concern of the USW.

Union-represented members at U.S. Steel “are the only real long-term stakeholders at this company,” USW said. “That is why we, as the only long-term interest, negotiated our right-to-bid clause, so that we have the right to organize our own transaction or to assign our rights to a bidder of our choosing,” the union explained.

Having assigned its right to bid to Cleveland-Cliffs in August, the union maintains its support of the Cleveland-based steelmaker as the preferred bidder in the U.S. Steel sales process. Cliffs is “the most committed to both steelmaking here in the United States and to supporting USW jobs,” the union said.

USW has asked Burritt to provide “all of the information that the [USS] board of directors considered in choosing to pass over Cleveland-Cliffs’ bid and instead take the Nippon offer.”

“Our BLAs not only entitles us to this information but also spells out the factors the board must take into account, which means USS may have further violated our contract in how it selected Nippon,” the union added.

Nippon Steel has said its Houston-based holding company will assume all USW labor, pension, and retiree insurance agreements. The USW remains concerned, however, as “unlike U.S. Steel, which publicly reports its financials, there is no public financial information for Nippon’s holding company, leaving us with no idea how it would be able to stand behind our contracts.”

Nippon Steel representatives met with the USW in late December. But the union said it walked away from that meeting with more questions than answers.

A spokesperson for Nippon Steel told SMU it intends to recognize the USW as the bargaining representative for its union-represented employees, honor all collective bargaining agreements, and maintain a constructive relationship with the union – including making no layoffs as a result of the deal.

“We intend to continue this dialogue in good faith as we move forward with the transaction,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Laura Miller

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