Chesterton Tribune



Steel talks: USW urges members to stay informed

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The drip-drip-drip of the pace at which contract talks are progressing with U.S. Steel Corporation--or not progressing--is the subject of the United Steelworkers’ latest communique, released on Thursday after deadline.

“We know that many of our brothers and sisters who work at U.S. Steel are frustrated with the extremely slow pace of our negotiations,” the union said. “We understand and share your frustration. We also know that this slow pace, this frustration, and the unpredictable state of our industry have led to uneasiness and uncertainty in our workplaces and our communities.”

That uncertainty isn’t likely to go away anytime soon--“We can’t predict the future, so we can’t tell you what is going to happen in the economy or how U.S. Steel is going to react,” the USW said--but the union is pledging to “do whatever it takes to win a fair contract” and to keep the membership informed about the process in the meantime.

This what the union does know:

“Our industry is in the midst of a crisis,” the USW said. “We did not cause this crisis; rather, it is the result of unfair trade and a drop in oil and gas prices. This led to a gut of steel imports, less demand and lower prices for our products, and global overcapacity.”

“This has meant layoffs or threats of layoffs at a number of U.S. Steel facilities,” the union noted. “The company earlier this year announced it would shut down the blast furnace and other operations in Fairfield, Ala., months before a new electric arc furnace comes on line. . . . (And) U.S. Steel temporarily idled its Keetac and Minntac plants, decisions affecting hundreds of USW members and families in the Minnesota Iron Range. While some workers have been called back to Minntac, Keetac remains idle. In addition, there have been warnings of additional layoffs at our steelmaking and finishing facilities in Ecorse, Minn., and Granite City, Ill.”

“While the USW is working hard to save every possible job and ensure that workers are treated with dignity and respect, this is still an extremely difficult time for many USW members and their families,” the union said.

The Steelworkers at U.S. Steel aren’t the only ones with their backs against the wall, the USW emphasized, as steelmakers “all across the country are attempting to take advantage of this temporary crisis to gut contracts.” ArcelorMittal and Cliffs Natural Resources are demanding “deep concessions” as well, while ATI commenced a lockout of 2,200 members in August “in an attempt to force them into accepting deep cuts.”

The USW is urging members to stay informed, to keep abreast of developments, to talk to their local officers and CAT coordinators.

Members should also be prepared--soon--to lend their voices to an effort to persuade Congress of the need for more robust trade policies, ones which would go far to counter or neutralize the “unfair trade, currency manipulation, and other illegal practices by our trading partners, most notably China,” the USW added. “Stay tuned for more information from your Rapid Response coordinators about that effort.”



Posted 10/16/2015




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