Cleveland-Cliffs and the United Steelworkers (USW) have reached a tentative agreement for a four-year labor contract that would cover 1,800 union workers, officials announced late Sunday.
If ratified by local union shops, the tentative contract would cover USW workers at Cleveland Cliffs' operations in both Minnesota and Michigan.
The operations include the United Taconite mine, plants in Eveleth and Forbes, Minn., Hibbing Taconite operations, and at Cliffs' Tilden and Empire mines in Michigan. (Cliffs owns a third, nonunion iron ore mine in Minnesota called Northshore Mining.)
In a statement, Cliffs officials said, "Cliffs acknowledges the sacrifices of our members during recent tough times and now that the industry is prospering, looks to give its dedicated workforce its fair share."
In a statement, CEO Lourenco Goncalves said, "We are pleased to reach a new labor contract that is fair and equitable to both parties, and provides Cliffs a competitive cost structure for future success. This agreement once again reinforces that we have more in common with the USW than we have differences, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership."
The new labor agreement comes after a tough restructuring in which a once downtrodden Cliffs sold off its Asian-Pacific ore interests as well as coal plants across the United States.
The remaining Cliffs is smaller but profitable and focusing on iron ore operations in Minnesota and Michigan.
Labor negotiations are ongoing for two other concerns with large ore-mining and taconite-pelletizing operations on Minnesota's Iron Range.
Tumultuous USW negotiations continue for ArcelorMittal, which owns the ArcelorMittal Minorca mine in Virginia, Minn. Talks also continue for U.S. Steel, which owns the Keetac mine and plant in Keewatin and the Minntac plant and mine in Mountain Iron.
Two weeks ago, USW members authorized leaders to call a strike if necessary at U.S. Steel and at ArcelorMittal facilities.
Wednesday, USW officials representing Iron Range workers, told Minnesota members that their families and local plant managers should begin to prepare for the possible idling of ore-processing plants.
Nationwide, USW talks with Arcelor and U.S. Steel cover tens of thousands of workers, including roughly 1,100 in Minnesota.
If ratified, the settling of a Cliffs' labor contract will be welcome news. State officials have not only been rattled by industry labor disputes but also by Cliffs' ongoing and unrelated disputes with the state and Mesabi Metallic's efforts to revive the former Essar Steel Minnesota operation in Nashwauk.
Cliffs has been embroiled in a number of lawsuits, in which it sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Mesabi Metallics regarding mining permits and leases. Some litigation is still making its way through the system.