Steelworkers have tentative three-year contract

steel2Granite City – United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract that would cover about 18,000 Steelworkers if ratified, following six months of tough bargaining. The previous contract expired Sept. 1.

In a statement announcing the settlement, the union did not give specific details of the deal but said it would hold informational meetings to discuss the proposal.

The agreement followed long and hard bargaining in which the company tried to use weakness in the steel market and international competition to water down the contract, but the union statement calls the new proposal a positive step.

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“This tentative agreement represents a major step forward from the position we found ourselves in earlier this summer when we were facing relentless company demands for deep and permanent concessions,” the union said. “As you know, this has been a difficult year and one of the most difficult rounds of bargaining we have faced, but knowing that we had the solidarity and strength of the membership behind us made all the difference as we attempted to stand up to the company’s most onerous demands.

“As you know, our industry is in the midst of a crisis. But we have been determined not to be forced to pay the full price for the problems of unfair trade and global overcapacity. Our goal throughout this process was to make sure we were not made scapegoats for what are global and, we believe, temporary problems.”

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The statement was issued with the names of 24 Local presidents serving on the bargaining committee. They include three from Granite City – Jason Chism of Local 50, Dan Simmons of Local 1899 and Dan Sykes of Local 68.

The Chicago Tribune described the bargaining situation in this way: “Illegally low-priced imports from China and elsewhere, along with a decline in oil and gas drilling brought on by low fuel prices, resulted in overcapacity across the globe.”

As a result, the company demanded pay and benefit cuts, work rule changes and other concessions at the beginning of negotiations.

The union said it will keep fighting to protect the U.S. steel industry from unfair international competition.

Meanwhile, planning for a temporary shutdown of Granite Steel is continuing. The union is scheduling informational meetings for the first workers who are to be affected and who are scheduled to be laid off beginning Dec. 27.

In an earlier statement, the union anticipated the layoffs will come in the order of production process, beginning with Iron and Steelmaking and concluding with Finishing Operations.

The meeting will include representatives from Illinois State Employment Services to help members apply for unemployment benefits. Community resources will also be represented.

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