Union, U.S. Steel taking a break from contract talks

After a summer of negotiations for a new contract, the United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel are taking a break from the bargaining table, the union announced Monday.

After a summer of negotiations for a new contract, the United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel are taking a break from the bargaining table, the union announced Monday.

"Our USW bargaining committee members are on their way back to their home locals this week to meet with members and discuss the status of our ongoing negotiations with U.S. Steel," the union reported. "While we have made some significant progress this summer on some important issues, we remain far apart on many others. ...

"Our team continues to be in contact with each other and with the company. Negotiations will continue, and we remain committed to bargaining for as long as necessary to achieve a fair agreement."

U.S. Steel, which owns and operates Minntac in Mountain Iron and Keetac in Keewatin, is Minnesota's largest iron ore producer. It also is a co-owner of Hibbing Taconite.

The union's contract with U.S. Steel expired Sept. 1, but the union told its members to keep working under the terms of those contracts as negotiations continued.


At the time, U.S. Steel officials gave a nod of approval to the union's decision.

"U.S. Steel remains committed to operating our facilities and servicing our customers without disruption as labor contract negotiations continue. We appreciate the United Steelworkers' commitment" to stay on the job, the company said in an Aug. 31 statement. The company had no further comment on the negotiations Monday.

The United Steelworkers reported Monday that U.S. Steel "is still insisting on unacceptable and unnecessary concessions that could cost our members and their families thousands of dollars per year."

Among the proposals, the union said, is an increase to premiums, deductibles, copays, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximums for workers' health care, and a two-tier benefit structure for new hires.

The company also is proposing higher health insurance premiums and drug co-pays for Medicare-eligible retirees and surviving spouses, the union said, as well as modifications to workers' overtime, profit-sharing, severance and seniority transfers.

Monday's news came in the wake of the union reporting over the weekend that contract talks with ArcelorMittal broke down. ArcelorMittal owns and operates the Minorca mine in Virginia with about 300 employees.

Negotiations continue for union members and Cliffs Natural Resources, which operates Hibbing Taconite, United Taconite and non-union Northshore Mining in Minnesota as well as two union operations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Empire and Tilden.

In all, some 4,500 Iron Range employees at five taconite plants are affected by the contract talks.

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