By CARL GREEN
Granite City – United Steelworkers retirees are acknowledging a company executive in Cleveland, Ohio, because of his influence on the union’s successful contract negotiations this fall.
At a time when negotiations with industry giants U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal could have gone either way, Cleveland Cliffs Inc. agreed to a contract with its USW members that reflected the stronger economy and improved steel market. Workers ratified it Oct. 12.
A few days later, the union and U.S. Steel agreed to a four-year contract that was ratified in November, also with raises and improved pensions, covering 16,000 workers. ArcelorMittal workers ratified a similar contract on Nov. 29, covering about 18,000.
Jeff Rains, president of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) chapter 7-34-2, thought it would be appropriate to show some appreciation for Lourenco Goncalves, chairman and CEO of Cleveland Cliffs, for leading his company through the negotiations in an enlightened and cooperative manner that made it clear the Steelworkers’ contracts could be improved this year.
PUT IT IN A LETTER
Rains wrote a letter to Goncalves and sent a copy to SOAR’s national office, which was distributing it to the other chapters if they want to join in. “I’m assuming a number of them will send it,” he added.
The letter calls on the companies to reward not only their stockholders but also their stake-holders – such as the workers.
“We at SOAR would like to personally thank you for doing what we consider to be the right thing during your recent contract negotiations.
Gone are the days when corporations considered their workforce to be a valuable asset. In the past, the men and women of a corporation were rewarded for their loyalty and hard work when business was successful and in return, the same workforce made sacrifices if need be to ensure the well-being of their employer.
“The workers were under the impression that they would receive a retirement that would allow them to live in dignity during the latter years of their lives. They didn’t consider themselves to be a ‘legacy cost’ and neither did the corporation.
“That was not true of the employers that we recently negotiated with, and we believe that by your good faith bargaining, it moved others in the right direction.
Rewarding the ‘stake-holders,’ not only the ‘stock-holders,’ ensures that in the future, the company will be much better off. Please pass on, to all those involved in the negotiations, our sincere appreciation.”
d-Cliffs, the nation’s largest and oldest independent iron ore mining company, agreed to a four-year contract including raises, improving pensions and protecting health care, covering about 1,800 USW members at two mines each in Michigan and Minnesota.
Goncalves was hired to lead the company in 2014 after a long career in the industry starting with a Brazilian steel company and heading California Steel starting in 1998.
Rains said he wrote the letter to express appreciation but also to reiterate the workers’ and retirees’ belief that they should share in the industry’s recent good fortunes. The U.S. Steel contract seems like a good indication that there was some effect. “They did turn it around,” he said. “It is a pretty good contract.”
GERARD: HISTORIC AGREEMENT
USW International President Leo Gerard said the U.S. Steel contract was nothing less than an historic agreement.
“This completes the restructuring of the steel industry following its near-collapse five years ago when a global financial crisis plunged company after company into bankruptcy,” he said following the vote. “The hard work of our members was instrumental in rescuing the industry and putting it back onto the road of profit that it rides today.”
“We’ve won good wage and pension increases in this contract, and our members are well deserving of it,” he said. “Our union has always negotiated a pattern in basic steel, and this contract sets the standard for agreements that come next.”