Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Steelworkers rally today as contract negotiations continue

Back to Front Page
 

 

 
 

 

By KEVIN NEVERS

United Steelworkers were being encouraged to attend rallies today at ArcelorMittal’s regional plants, as they continue to work without a contract.

The USW’s previous four-year labor agreement expired at midnight Friday.

The USW released the following statement after deadline on Tuesday.

“With U.S. Steel reaching a tentative agreement over the weekend, why does ArcelorMittal continue to drag its feet?

“The answer is that management continues to try to achieve what they set out to do in the beginning: attack our contract and undermine our future.

“Three of the biggest obstacles we are facing are:

“•The refusal of the company to properly fund the Benefit Trust that enables us to keep retiree health care premiums at an affordable level (as well as provide benefits to our retirees from previous companies). Without this, retiree health care premiums could skyrocket.

“•The attempt by the company to eliminate the $10,000 Pension Enhancement Payment, which is paid at retirement, for people who retire on a Steelworkers Pension Trust pension (everyone other than those in the former Inland defined benefit pension plan).

“•The refusal of the company to commit to continue funding the former Inland defined benefit pension plan to a minimum of 80 percent.

“There are, of course, other issues to be resolved. But a fair resolution requires that the company be fair-minded. The company needs to continue to hear from you that you demand a fair contract now.”

Gipson

Late on Tuesday, USW Local 6787 President Paul Gipson told the Chesterton Tribune that, contrary to the company’s claims—that it needs “flexibility,” a “competitive edge,” and “long-term sustainability” going forward—ArcelorMittal in fact “wants to attack us and undermine us.”

“It’s about power and control,” Gipson said.

The company is specifically seeking $350 million in concessions from the USW, Gipson said, or about a $28 reduction per steelworker in wages, benefits, and healthcare.

Concessions on that order, however, would give ArcelorMittal a competitive edge against U.S. Steel, which over the weekend successfully negotiated its own new contract with the USW. “We can’t allow any one company to have a competitive edge with labor costs,” Gipson said.

“Our ultimate weapon is a strike,” Gipson added. “We made it clear we don’t want to strike. We are reserving that right. But we don’t want to strike them. They’re ill prepared to maintain these facilities.”

“We won’t allow them to have a competitive edge over U.S. Steel,” Gipson said. “We’re not going to allow them to butcher our retirees. I’ve been doing this for 44 years. This is the most ridiculous round of negotiations I’ve ever been involved in. It’s mind boggling.”

 

Posted 9/5/2012