Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Pittsburgh, PA, United States (4E) – Over 30,000 angry unionized steelworkers at the United States’ two largest steel makers will likely go on strike in October following repeated stonewalling by management of their demands for higher pay and profit sharing amid a renaissance in the steel industry.
Leaders of United Steelworkers (USW), the union representing workers at both ArcelorMittal (the world’s largest steel producer) and the United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel), the second largest domestic producer, in the contract talks said a strike is very likely. Together, ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel account for nearly 25 percent of U.S. steel production.
“If I had to put a number on it, there is a 90 percent chance” of a strike, said Thomas Conway, the union’s international vice president. “Our people are (angry). They understand the risk of this and what it means for their families.”
Workers at ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel want a bigger portion of the windfall these firms have accumulated in recent years. Steelworkers at the two firms say they haven’t benefited in any way from these corporate gains.
Union officials pointed out the U.S. steel industry was enjoying strong growth even before Trump’s protectionist tariffs. ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel reported massive profits after Trump’s protectionist tariffs went into effect while other American firms hard hit by Trump’s trade war were struggling to survive.
Lasr week, the USW union at U.S. Steel returned to the bargaining table at Pittsburgh after both sides failed to do so on Sept. 1.
“Members sent the management at U.S. Steel a clear message: that the workforce recognizes the greed management has displayed in lining their own pockets,” said USW in an update to members. “We also know that workers have sacrificed to help the company over the past several years, and that the U.S. Steel bosses need to come to their senses, bargain in good faith and drop their ridiculous concessionary demands. Solidarity works, and this union knows that.”
After three years with no pay increases, USW seeks raises at a time when the steel industry is booming. USW, however, said U.S. Steel management wants concessions, including more out-of-pocket health care costs, reduced retiree benefits and no raises in the last half of a six-year contract. The 16,000 U.S.
USW claim top company officials at U.S. Steel have given themselves more than $50 million in pay and bonuses since 2015 while the hourly workforce has not received a wage increase over the same period. Steel workers then unanimously voted for a strike authorization.
This week, 15,000 members of the USW at ArcelorMittal unanimously voted to authorize a nationwide strike at plants operated by the company if negotiations over new contracts flounder. ArcelorMittal also wants concessions from workers despite recently reporting its highest quarterly profit in seven years.
A strike by workers at either or both companies be a major blow to the industry, which the Trump administration sought to strengthen by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
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