Tags: Steel | workers | worried | benefit | rising | profits

With Steel Surging, Workers Hope They Will Benefit

steel production
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 03 October 2018 09:01 PM

Production at U.S. Steel’s facilities has ramped up and steel tariffs are expected to help profits surge — but a new contract with steelworkers may decide if they take part in the bounty, The Washington Post reported.

“There was a lot of excitement here; there were a lot of us saying, ‘It’s about time someone is looking out for us,’” Richard Lattanzi, the mayor of Clairton, Pa., and a safety inspector at the U.S. Steel plant in nearby West Mifflin, told the Post. “A lot of people around here were saying, ‘We’re going to be okay.’ ”

Now, he told the Post, “It’s been a little like watching the air going out of a balloon.”

Both the anticipation and imposition of the tariffs led the price of steel to soar more than 33 percent — but now facing less foreign competition, domestic steel companies’ profits are ballooning, and crediting President Donald Trump, the companies are making plans to open up new steel plants and hire more workers, the Post reported.

The trickle-down effects are far harder to predict — and the issue is coming to a head because labor contracts governing 31,000 steelworkers at U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, the largest steel company in the world, expired last month. 

There were signs Wednesday the sides could reach an agreement, but if talks break down, it could bring about the industry’s first major strike in four decades, the newspaper noted.

In its latest offer, U.S. Steel said it would give workers an immediate raise of 4 percent, followed by 3 percent annual raises later on. 

But at the same time, the company said it is wrestling with soaring health-care costs and that it needs to start asking workers to absorb some of those — by paying $145 per month for health care, the Post reported.

Workers haven’t paid premiums in the past, and the union contends the plan will reduce the overall wage increase to just about 1.7 percent over nine years.

“We have done so much for this company, and now they have the audacity to bring before us all these concessions when they are projected to profit $2 billion this year alone,” Michael Young, a maintenance technician at a U.S. Steel plant in Portage, Ind., and a survivor of colon cancer, told the Post. “I want the company to leave my healthcare alone.”

It’s not clear how much leverage the workers will have. The percentage of steelworkers who are in a union fell from 36 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2017, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the Post reported. 

U.S. Steel also needs to invest in upgrading its plants and facilities — new types of technologies that require fewer workers, the Post reported.

Ownership “got a huge tax cut, and the tariffs are lining their pockets,” Jim Borkowski who works at the Clairton steel plant told the Post. “We are ready to get our fair share.”

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Production at U.S. Steel's facilities has ramped up and steel tariffs are expected to help profits surge - but a new contract with steelworkers may decide if they take part in the bounty, The Washington Post reported."There was a lot of excitement here; there were a lot of...
Steel, workers, worried, benefit, rising, profits
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2018-01-03
Wednesday, 03 October 2018 09:01 PM
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