Chesterton Tribune



United Steelworkers ratify new contract with ArcelorMittal

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Something like a year after the United Steelworkers (USW) began negotiating a new three-year contract with ArcelorMittal, members have “overwhelmingly” ratified the product of months of on-again/off-again talks, the union announced after deadline on Thursday.

That contract--retroactive to Sept. 1, 2015, and expiring on Sept. 1, 2018, covers nearly 14,000 represented hourly production, maintenance, office, and technical workers at 15 of the company’s U.S. facilities.

Fully 69 percent of the membership at Local 6878, representing workers at ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor facility, voted to ratify the contract, 1,339 to 607.

Locals 1010 and 1011, representing workers at the Indiana Harbor facilities in East Chicago, voted to ratify by 69-percent and 80-percent margins respectively: 951-429 and 521-131.

“We have settled our differences with management at the table, so together now we can focus on addressing the industry’s real problems, such as global overcapacity and the unfair and often illegal foreign trade practices that depress prices, close plants, and cost jobs,” USW International President Leo Gerard said. “The USW negotiating committee, activists, and members at each of the facilities deserve our thanks and credit for staying united throughout the long, difficult process.”

“Even though negotiations took much longer than anyone anticipated, the solidarity of USW members within and between each of the facilities enabled our committee to fight for and win a fair agreement that works for all of us,” USW District 1 Director David McCall said. “Thanks to many months of hard work and dedication from everyone involved, the new contract preserves our wages, benefits, and other contractual protections without lowering the standard of living for current or future retirees.”

“For generations our families have worked in these plants and established a way of life,” USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap said. “We are confident that as long as we work together and fight for fair trade instead of free trade, the steel industry will continue to provide good jobs that support families and sustain communities with fair pay and benefits.”

The company, meanwhile, breathed its own sigh of relief. “ArcelorMittal extends our appreciation to our employees, customers, and community members for their patience and commitment during this process,” ArcelorMittal said in a statement released this morning to the Chesterton Tribune. “We are pleased that we were able to negotiate in good faith with the USW to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement while avoiding unnecessary impact on our employees and their families, our customers, and our communities.”

“ArcelorMittal is committed to working with the USW to implement the agreements made in the new contract,” the company added. “Like any negotiation, the new contract represents compromise for both parties but serves as a platform for achieving a more sustainable and successful business here in the U.S.”

The Contract

The new contract provides for no wage increases over its lifetime but does include a mechanism to deliver a bonus triggered by an upswing in market conditions, specifically when the average price per fiscal quarter of a ton of hot-rolled steel exceeds $600. Hot-rolled has averaged above $600 per ton since 2011, but fell below $500 per ton last year and hasn’t yet recovered.

Although the company had been seeking monthly premium contributions from members for health insurance, it settled in the end for the consolidation of four existing health plans into a single one. Non-Medicare eligible spouses of members whose own employers provide health insurance will be required to enroll on those plans; the company, though, will reimburse the spouse the cost of those premiums. New deductibles of $200 for single coverage and $400 for family coverage will be waived for members who participate in an annual routine physical.

Retirees, on the other hand, will see the following premium increases for their health coverage: from $70 to $100 for non-Medicare eligible retirees and from $35 to $50 for the Medicare-eligible ones. Non-Medicare eligible retirees will also be moved into a coverage plan identical to the active healthcare plan but without the dental coverage.

In addition, the new contract specifically calls for the idling of the 84-inch hot strip mill at Indiana Harbor West; and the idling of the No. 2 steel shop, the No. 1 aluminizing line, and the No. 5 continuous galvanizing line at Indiana Harbor East. But no USW members will be pink-slipped as a result of those idlings. Instead, they’ll have the opportunity to transfer--after internal plant bidding--to any of ArcelorMittal’s other Northwest Indiana facilities or to its Riverdale, Ill., plant.


Posted 6/24/2016





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