MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -
Tensions are rising on Minnesota’s Iron Range as a deadline approaches in
steelworkers’ contract talks.
Labor contracts are
set to expire Tuesday for 30,000 American steelworkers. That includes 2,300
on the Iron Range, an area recently hit by 1,400 layoffs.
Pittsburgh has turned contentious in recent weeks, creating the possibility
of more protests and lockouts or even strikes, the Star Tribune reported.
have been held around the nation, including in Minnesota. Steelworkers plan
to form a “practice picket line” on Tuesday at ArcelorMittal Minorca in
“People are a bit
anxious now because it’s coming down to the wire,” said Harold Anderson, an
ArcelorMittal electrician who has worked in the 310-employee Minorca
taconite plant in Virginia for nearly eight years. “People are more
concerned this time around than ever.”
contend that U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal - the world’s largest steelmaker
-are asking for too many concessions.
president of Steelworkers Local 6860 in Eveleth, and other union officials
told workers at an Aug. 20 rally in Virginia that U.S. Steel and
ArcelorMittal are using the temporary downturn in the U.S. steel market “as
an excuse to permanently gut workers’ contract language and benefits.”
Both U.S. Steel and
ArcelorMittal declined to comment to the newspaper. Both have labor
contracts with the United Steelworkers that expire Tuesday.
Also not commenting
are officials at Ohio-based Cliffs Natural Resources, which has 1,250
employees at northeastern Minnesota operations in Eveleth, Forbes and
Hibbing. Cliffs’ steelworker contracts expire Oct. 1. Bargaining begins
In recent weeks,
officials at all three companies have cited in statements the troubled
industry, historically low iron and steel prices, the big surge in cheap
steel imports from China and losing millions of dollars during this latest
These are “the
extremely challenging conditions we continue to face in North America,” U.S.
Steel CEO Mario Longhi said.
Hibbing Chamber of
Commerce President Lory Fedo and Laurentian Chamber of Commerce President
Bernie Collins said the 670 businesses they represent on the Iron Range are
neutral about labor talks but worry about more purse tightening in the area.
In May, U.S. Steel
laid off 812 of its nearly 2,000 workers at its Keetac and Minntac mines and
taconite pellet plants in Keewatin and Mountain Iron.
Earlier this month,
Cliff’s United Taconite laid off 420 workers after idling its plant and mine
in Eveleth and Forbes. Magnetation let 20 workers in Keewatin go and then
filed for bankruptcy in the spring. Last month, Mesabi Nugget let 200
workers in Chisholm and Hoyt Lakes go.
which owns the Minorca Mine and taconite plant just outside Virginia, has
not laid off workers in Minnesota.