Chesterton Tribune



USW on USS negotiations: Time is running out

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Time is running out at the negotiating table, the United Steelworkers (USW) is reporting, though its bargaining committee continues to meet with U.S. Steel Corporation (USS).

In a communique released late on Tuesday--entitled “U.S. Steel’s Shell Game Continues”--the union pledged to stay at the table “for a few more days” to avoid a strike, but added that “local leadership will be back home” soon to discuss the next move with membership.

The text of the communique in full:

“Our bargaining committee met with U.S. Steel again tody”--Tuesday--“in what has become a frustrating series of negotiations. The company continues to insist on a long-term six-year deal that would allow them to avoid having to deal with everyday issues and problems that arise and get addressed during collective bargaining.

“The company continues to demand $9,000 in healthcare premiums, which you would pay monthly over the life of the agreement.

“They insist on a unilateral right to change your incentive plans to align them with the company’s operating incentive plans they created for the bosses, and they have said if you don’t like the outcome we can grieve it and appeal to arbitration. We just have to get in line behind all the discharge cases, which allows them in large part to set the pace of cases being heard in arbitration. They continue to refuse to fund the Steelworker Pension Trust (SPT) or Carnegie pension funds.

“They have concocted a new HRA (health reimbursement arrangement) scheme in which they would put a total of $4,500 into an account that you could access years down the road, once you’ve retired and they have placed further restrictions on how you could use it. In order for you to get this money, they are demanding that the union allow them to raid an existing VEBA (voluntary employees beneficiary association) account designed to fund retiree healthcare and life insurance and to allow them to use it to pay for SUB (supplement unemployment benefits), to cover the cost of healthcare for active employees when you are laid off, severance allowances for actives when they have to pay severance, and any other kind of payment to active employees so they don’t have to meet their own contractual obligations.

“This company is fine with spending ‘other people’s money,’ and they are experts at cost-shifting. Now they have turned to the retiree fund to pay for their operating costs when they lay you off. Recall that only a week ago they were selling us our own profit-sharing payments as part of their bonus plans. This is how a real shell game works, run by genuine shysters. Imagine what kind of games they will play if they can unilaterally open up incentive plans and ‘align’ them as they see fit.

“Time is running out. From Day One, U.S. Steel has built a series of proposals to try to split our union by throwing sparkles and bonuses at active workers while trying to separate future hires and retirees from the herd and isolate them. It’s a tired old trick, and our committee isn’t falling for it.

“We’re going to keep trying for a few more days to be sure we’ve exhausted every chance to avoid a strike but soon your local leadership will be back home to walk through the next steps with you. Stay strong, united, and determined.”


Posted 9/20/2018




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