Union workers at U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal agreed to continue working under a temporary extension of their contract, which also will allow bargaining to continue.

The contracts at both companies affect a combined 30,000 U.S. iron and steel workers, including more than 2,000 on Minnesota's Iron Range. They were set to expire Tuesday.

"We are working on an extended agreement, day to day with a 48-hour [strike] notice as long as progress is being made" in the bargaining talks, said John Rebrovich, a spokesman for United Steelworkers (USW) District 11, which represents Minnesota and eight other states.

Negotiations continue in Pittsburgh.

But the ongoing labor talks did not halt union rallies scheduled around the country on Tuesday.

A "practice picket" Tuesday afternoon at the ArcelorMittal Minorca plant near Virginia, Minn., was changed in name to a "support rally" for steelworkers and attracted about 100 participants, organizers said.

Meanwhile, a large USW protest went on as planned Tuesday in Pittsburgh, with participants marching to the headquarters of U.S. Steel and Allegheny Technologies. Stainless steel producer Allegheny Technologies locked out 2,200 steelworkers from its plant in August.

United Steelworkers says U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal had been asking for too many concessions, even given the current industry downturn. On the table, according to the union, are large increases in health care deductibles, a two-tier wage system and deep cuts to vacation and overtime.

The companies say low global prices and a gush of cheap steel imports require significant changes for the steel producers to survive. The industry decline has forced U.S. Steel and other steel firms to close blast furnaces in some states and to idle iron ore taconite plants on Minnesota's Iron Range.