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USW rallies for fair contract at Arcelor HQ, meets with CEO Mittal

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ArcelorMittal Chair Lakshmi Mittal met with a delegation of United Steelworkers on Wednesday, after 100 or so members, retirees, and their supporters rallied during the morning rush hour at the company’s U.S. corporate headquarters on South Dearborn Street in Chicago.

The Steelworkers’ message: “WE deserve a fair contract now.”

According to a statement released by the USW late Wednesday, Mittal and ArcelorMittal Americas CEO Lou Schorsch “were drawn to the USW rally from their offices and invited a delegation of USW members inside for coffee and a brief discussion of the issues.”

The delegation, for its part, “told Mittal and Schorsch that tens of thousands of active and retired stand in solidarity against ArcelorMittal’s contract demands, that the USW cannot allow the company to take away the rights and benefits members have earned and will not allow management to triple the amount retirees contribute to health insurance plans.”

“The company’s demands would immediately lower the standards of living for our members and retirees,” said USW District 1 Director David McCall. who is chairing the union’s negotiations with ArcelorMittal. “Further, these proposals are clearly designed to undermine our ability to defend our benefits in future negotiations.”

More than 13,000 workers at ArcelorMittal facilities in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Louisiana have been working under the terms of and conditions of the previous contract, which expired on Sept. 1, 2015. One week ago, on Thursday, Jan. 21, the union’s negotiating committee presented its counterpart with a comprehensive contract proposal, to which the company has not yet responded.

“Negotiations for new contracts have been slowed by management’s demands for significant concessions,” the USW said. “Although the USW has reported some progress in contract talks, ArcelorMittal persists in demands for drastic changes to active and retiree benefits plans, among other unfair and unnecessary concessions.”

“In order for us to fend off these demands and the company’s relentless and endless attempts to reverse decades of collective bargaining progress, we must continue to stand together,” McCall said.

“The USW remains committed to negotiating in good faith for a fair contract with ArcelorMittal and the negotiating committee is confident that the union will achieve its goals with the continued support of the membership and solidarity from the international labor community,” the union said.

ArcelorMittal Releases a Statement

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the day before the USW’s rally in Chicago, ArcelorMittal released its first statement since going on break for the holidays, in December.

After first recognizing the union’s right “to peacefully demonstrate”--with the proviso that Steelworkers “be mindful” of their own safety and that of visitors to the South Dearborn building--the company stated the following:

“We continue to be transparent about the challenges facing the steel industry our USA operations. Macroeconomic factors including global steel industry overcapacity, record high import levels from non-market economies, and a strong U.S. dollar have created an unsustainable operating environment for our industry.

“As a result of this challenging environment, our U.S. operations have implemented a number of cost savings initiatives including reduced purchasing, supplier, and operating costs and a revised healthcare plan for our salaried employees. We have also been working tirelessly to achieve strong trade enforcement to battle the flood of unfairly traded imports and to improve our performance through asset optimization.

“The company’s labor negotiations with the United Steelworkers provide an additional opportunity to align our cost structure with the economic realities of the industry. We remain committed to achieving a mutually sustainable agreement that can support the collective future of all stakeholders, including our employees.”

U.S. Steel Corporation

Just before Christmas, the USW and U.S. Steel Corporation reached a tentative agreement, the details of which neither party has yet released.

A ratification vote by mail ballot is currently being taken, with those votes scheduled to be counted in Pittsburgh on Feb. 1.

 

Posted 1/28/2016

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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