Selling out U.S. steelworkers, shareholders approve sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon

Illinois Correspondent

The national steelworkers union is accusing Nippon Steel of prioritizing its Japanese operations at the expense of U.S. workers even as U.S. Steel shareholders voted Friday to approve the sale of the iconic steel company.

United Steelworkers issued a statement Wednesday calling out Nippon for seeking to lift tariffs on Japanese tin mill products while United Steel has idled production at two other steel mills besides Granite City.

“Our union for decades has been on the front lines fighting to protect our industries from dumped and illegally subsidized products, including from Japan,” said USW International President David McCall in the statement. “We witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of unfair trade on our jobs and communities, and as an extension, how plant closures and reduced capacity limit our nation’s ability to meet its own critical needs.”

McCall said when Nippon Steel announced its $14.9 billion offer to buy U.S. Steel in December, they were concerned that the transaction would undermine decades of work fighting subsidized foreign steel. Now, he said, they see evidence of that concern: Nippon was among the respondents seeking to lift the tariffs. The response argued that lost steel jobs were, in fact, a reason why the International Trade Commission should lift the tariffs.

“Obviously this is complete nonsense, and we must continue to protect what’s left of our domestic tin mill industry,” McCall said. “Given Nippon’s current actions, its public promises ring hollow. We have no reason to believe it will change course should the transaction with (U.S. Steel) close, leaving our domestic steel industry in even greater danger.”

USW has been one of the strongest voices of opposition in the pending merger, along with both 2024 presidential candidates and a number of Congressmen. The proposal is currently under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

Added to that investigation: the U.S. Department of Justice has now opened a formal investigation of the Nippon-U.S. Steel deal as a possible antitrust violation. This has the potential to overshadow Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s White House visit this week, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, U.S. Steel shareholders voted on Friday to approve the sale of the company to Nippon. The vote was not a surprise, given that stockholders stand to make a healthy profit on the sale: according to a statement from USW, CEO David Burritt will personally make more than $70 million and the vice presidents will bring in tens of millions. Rival bidder Cleveland Cliffs had offered a buyout approximately half of Nippon’s bid.

Investors representing 71 percent of the company’s shares voted on the deal, and of those, 98 percent voted in favor, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We are not surprised by stockholders electing to cash in and sell out the iconic American company’s employees and retirees, along with the communities where we live and work,” McCall said. “Thankfully today’s vote isn’t the end of the story.”

McCall said it was important for union leaders to remain united as they fight to enforce security for jobs, earnings and benefits under the contract.

“U.S. Steel would have no value if not for the hard work of generations of USW members to build the company into what it is now,” he said.

However, the European Union antitrust regulators are expected to issue a formal approval of the deal in May, as they have no competition concerns, according to Reuters.

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