Labor contract talks stuck over three key issues, union says
United Steelworkers said they will stage rallies and practice picketing at ArcelorMittal facilities Wednesday in the hopes of nudging the taconite and steel maker closer to a new labor contract.
The contract expired Friday at midnight, leaving both sides at the bargaining table to work out a deal that so far has failed to materialize.
The two sides remain at loggerheads over three key issues. Union officials say ArcelorMittal is refusing to fund a key health care benefit trust and wants to kill a separate $10,000 pension payment to retirees who are part of the Steelworkers Pension Trust plan. The company also doesn't want to continue the 80 percent funding of a former Inland defined-benefit pension plan.
ArcelorMittal officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Union officials said over the weekend that they would continue working and not call a strike in the hope that a deal could be reached.
ArcelorMittal, which owns the 330-employee Minorca Mine in Virginia, Minn., is the largest steel producer in the United States. Company officials began contract negotiations in Pittsburgh in early August.
Contract negotiations also are in play between steelworkers and Cliffs Natural Resources, which owns Hibbing Taconite in Hibbing and United Taconite in Eveleth.
About 1,090 steelworkers in Minnesota and another 1,330 workers in Michigan are affected by that dispute. The contract expired Friday night, but both sides agreed to extend the contract while talks continue.
In contrast, United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel agreed on a three-year contract Sunday morning. Union officials declined to give details, but said they expect the membership to vote on the agreement in the next few weeks.
If approved, the new U.S. Steel contract would affect about 1,350 workers in Minnesota's USS Keetac and USS Minntac plants on the Iron Range and another 13,600 workers nationwide.
Dee DePass 612-673-7725