PITTSBURGH, Feb. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union have ratified a new three-year contract with U.S. Steel that will cover 18,000 workers at more than a dozen facilities across the United States. USW members voted by a greater than 2-to-1 margin to approve the contract, which will take effect immediately.
The two sides reached a tentative agreement in December after six months of often difficult negotiations during an extremely challenging environment for steelmakers across the country. U.S. Steel's opening proposal contained demands for major cuts in pay and benefits, along with changes to work rules and other concessions that could have cost workers and their families thousands of dollars per year. After agreeing to a contract extension, the two sides continued to exchange proposals well past the previous contract's Sept. 1 expiration date.
While the new agreement includes modest changes to active and retiree health care coverage, the union was able to fight off the company's demands for significant premium contributions, as well as other large-scale out-of-pocket increases. The contract keeps wages at their current level, but includes an increase in the USW's profit-sharing percentage, which will allow workers to receive payments when the company bounces back from the current crisis. The agreement also resets supplemental unemployment benefits for laid-off workers.
"The past year has been a difficult one for the steel industry, for USW members, and for manufacturing towns all across this country," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "The key to weathering this crisis is not to attack each other, but to work together to find solutions to our common problems - namely the severe imbalance and unfairness in our trade system. This must be our shared goal as we move forward."
Over the past year, illegally low-priced imports from China and elsewhere, along with global overcapacity and a decline in oil and gas drilling brought on by lower fuel prices, drove prices and demand for steel down and led U.S. Steel and other companies to idle plants and lay off workers at factories around the country.
"I am extremely proud of the solidarity and the commitment to fairness that the Steelworkers showed throughout this process," said USW International Vice President Tom Conway, who led the union's bargaining committee. "These hard-working men and women were determined not to be made scapegoats for what is a global crisis."
Mike Millsap, who serves as USW District 7 director and secretary of the bargaining committee, said the union looked forward to working with U.S. Steel to address the industry's trade imbalance and to position the company and its work force for future success.
"We are proud of the productive relationship we've built with U.S. Steel," Millsap said. "We hope to build on it as we move forward from what has been a very challenging year."
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments.
R.J. Hufnagel, (412) 562-2450,
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)