The Iron Range’s mining industry has come a long way since 2015, when a downturn ravaged the region’s largest employer and idled plants from Keewatin to Silver Bay — with the exception of Minorca Mine in Virginia — and put workers out of jobs as their unions haggled with the companies on a new contract.
Today, the industry is humming thanks to tariffs enacted in 2016 and the Section 232 tariffs enacted by the Trump administration. Keetac opened last year after nearly two years idled by its parent company, U.S. Steel, which also reopened Granite City Works in Illinois this year.
Labor negotiations are vastly more complicated with the latter situation in mind. As the companies report increased profits on the heels of the industry’s upswing, the United Steelworkers are digging in and preparing for a potential strike as the sides appear far apart on a new deal.
This simply cannot happen.
The work done by the companies, the Steelworkers and local, state and federal politicians to right the ship and keep it moving during the bleak times three years ago is in danger of being flushed.
A deal needs to happen between the companies and the unions.
What that deal looks like is ultimately up to them, but the steel industry is in such good shape that it is in no shape to take the impact of a strike or lockout that threatens to shut down operations.
The impact on the local communities would be heavy as workers tighten their belts. There’s plenty at stake for those workers and companies, too, giving both sides plenty of incentive to get something done.
Our plea is that negotiations are done in good faith and with fairness at the forefront.
Iron Range mines have a chance to continue capitalizing on rare wins for an industry so cyclical in nature. But capitalizing means keeping the doors open and the ore shipping out.
It’s time to think of the communities and the people with the most to lose if things go further south. It’s time to make progress on a deal rather than prolonged stalemates and increasingly sharper tongues.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MESABI DAILY NEWS