Steel talks yield one contract

  • Article by: KIM MCGUIRE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2012 - 7:26 AM

Steelworkers union reached a tentative deal with U.S. Steel; talks remained unfinished with two other Iron Range employers.

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Molten steel is poured in a U.S. Steel Corp. plant in Gary, indiana, in this undated company photo.

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More than 1,400 Iron Range steelworkers will spend Labor Day without any guarantees about their future, while about 1,300 found resolution over the weekend.

U.S. Steel announced on Sunday that it had reached a tentative agreement on a three-year labor contract with the United Steelworkers of America.

Union officials said the tentative agreement covers 15,000 employees at 11 taconite and mining plants around the country. That includes 1,330 workers at U.S. Steel's Minnesota mines, Minntac in Mountain Iron and Keetac in Keewatin.

The agreement still must be ratified by union members. Its terms were not immediately available.

"We are pleased that a tentative agreement was reached with the United Steelworkers on a competitive three-year contract," U.S. Steel Chairman and CEO John Surma said. "We believe that this agreement is in the best interests of our company, our employees and all of our stakeholders."

R.J. Hufnagel, a U.S. Steelworkers spokesman in Pittsburgh, said that talks went on past 11 p.m. Saturday and that he received word about 6 a.m. Sunday that a tentative deal had been struck. Members are expected to vote on the agreement in the next couple of weeks. "It's good news for everyone," Hufnagel said.

Contract agreements have yet to be reached between the union and two other companies with Iron Range mines -- Cliffs Natural Resources and ArcelorMittal.

Union officials said they are continuing to negotiate with ArcelorMittal to reach a deal involving 14,000 union members nationwide. The Luxembourg-based company owns the Minorca mine and processing center outside Virginia, with 300 union members.

Negotiators for Cliffs went home for the weekend to spend time with their families, said company spokeswoman Sandy Karnowski. As of Sunday evening, a date had not been set for those talks to resume.

The talks with Cliffs affect about 455 workers at United Taconite in Eveleth, 675 at Hibbing Taconite and 1,300 at Cliff's Empire and Tilden operations on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Both Cliffs and ArcelorMittal have taken steps to continue operations if union workers were to walk out, company officials have confirmed.

State and business leaders fear a strike would hurt a region just regaining its footing. Minnesota's $3.1 billion taconite industry supports 17,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Staff writer Dee DePass contributed to this report. Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469

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