Chesterton Tribune



ArcelorMittal and USW to resume talks Monday

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Ten days after ArcelorMittal walked away from the bargaining table, contract negotiations were set to resume next week, the United Steelworkers announced after deadline on Wednesday.

The union’s negotiating committee will return to Pittsburgh, Pa., on Sunday, Sept. 27, “with face-to-face meetings with management scheduled for Monday, Sept. 28, and throughout the week.”

“It is vitally important that everyone understands the issues and ArcelorMittal management’s unfair and unncessary demands, and we believe that sharing this important information is essential to build membership solidarity within and between our locals,” the union said. “Our negotiating committee appreciates the visible and vocal support displayed by USW members at all locations through this process, and we are counting on your continued unity and solidarity.”

A series of solidarity actions will be held at all ArcelorMittal locations on Wednesday, Sept. 30, the USW added, “to help deliver the message to the company that we are united and demand a fair contract now.”

The company, for its part, confirmed the union’s announcement in a brief statement released this morning: “ArcelorMittal will resume negotiations with the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh on Monday, Sept. 28, and we remain committed to negotiating in good faith with the USW in an effort to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement.”

ArcelorMittal never explicitly said why its negotiators walked away from the table in the first place but in a statement released on Sept. 13 the company did make a point of referring to “structural challenges facing the domestic steel industry and the impact that high labor costs have on our ability to successfully compete.”

The USW has accused both ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel Corporation (USS) of using a temporary downturn in the domestic steel market caused by very specific economic conditions--a spike in steel imports, a plunge in oil prices, and a strong dollar--as an excuse to force deep and permanent concessions on both active members and retirees. ArcelorMittal, on the other hand, has been saying dire things since the spring about the threat to the domestic industry posed by high fixed costs which do not fluctuate, up or down, with trends in steel consumption or prices.

Meanwhile, there’s been no word from the USW committee negotiating with USS since its members left Pittsburg on Sept. 14 and returned to their home locals to consult. The union was at pains at the time, however, to assure the membership that talks with USS were continuing and that its negotiators were in communication wiith the company’s.

“Bargaining for the American Dream”

It’s against this uncertain backdrop--as members begin their fourth week of working on an expired contract, fearful of losing benefits and protections painstakingly negotiated over the last half century--that USW International President Leo Gerard has chosen to highlight the benefits to a community of unionization. In his latest blog, posted on Tuesday, Gerard cites a study newly released by the Center for American Progress and entitled “Bargaining for the American Dream,” which endeavors to measure the impact of union membership on an area’s low-income children.

The study reports the following:

* “Areas with higher union membeship demonstrate more mobility for low-income children.” Specifically, the study’s authors found that low-income children ranked 1.3 percentile points higher in the national income distribution when they lived in a geographic area with a 10-percent increase in union membership. “Indeed, union density is one of the strongest predictors of an area’s mobility.”

* “Areas with higher union membership have more mobility as measured by all children’s incomes.” The study’s authors point in particular to a correlation between a 10-percent increase in union density and a 4.5-percent increase in the income of the area’s children.

* “Children who grow up in union households have better outcomes” than those who who grow up in non-union households. Thus, for instance, the children of non-colleged educated fathers earn 28 percent more if their father belonged to a labor union, the study documents.

The study’s authors conclude that unionization in a community is good for everyone in the community, whether they have a union card or not: “It has been shown that unions push up wages for non-union workers, for example, and those wage gains for non-union members could be passed on to their children. Children who grow up in non-union households may also display more mobility in highly unionized areas, for example, because they may be able to join a union when they enter the labor market.”

Or as Gerard observes in his blog, “That means collective bargaining provides the added advantage of helping kids who happen to live in union members’ neighborhoods.”


Posted 9/24/2015




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