Steelworkers Stage Mass Rallies Nationwide

Steelworkers Stage Mass Rallies Nationwide

Steelworkers and their allies staged mass rallies nationwide for new and fair contracts with the nation’s top two producers, U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, as talks with the firms come down to the wire: Contract expiration at midnight Sept. 1.

The largest rallies were in Virginia, Minn. -- in the heart of U.S. ore production, Minnesota’s Iron Range -- and Gary, Ind., home of U.S. Steel’s largest plant. More than 2,000 workers and their allies marched in each city.

Other rallies were in the Pittsburgh area, Coatesville, Steelton and Fairless Hills, Pa., East Chicago, Ind., Ecorse, Mich., Fairfield, Ala., Granite City, Ill., Lorain and Warren, Ohio, and Weirton, W. Va. The talks cover more than 30,000 workers, combined, at both firms.

The rallies also show that the surrounding communities support the Steelworkers, and that those areas’ residents realize how important the steel jobs are to the middle class and to those cities’ and towns’ economic health, the union said.

The steel firms are seizing on a current slump in steel orders – especially for finished pipe, which is impacted by subsidized foreign imports – to demand a wide range of givebacks.

“I’ve been through all this before,” said Wayne Dunder, a MinnTac worker and Local 1938 member. He told the Duluth (Minn.) Labor World: “Once they get away with taking away your benefits, including huge health care cuts, it’s hell to get them back. We can’t let that happen.”

Steelworkers President Leo Gerard made clear the workers want to sign a new contract but said they would not yield to the firms’ giveback demands. He reported “modest progress” in talks with U.S. Steel at the negotiating table in Pittsburgh.  And in a sign of the seriousness of the talks, the union’s nationally noted job safety and health team joined the bargaining. 

"We recognize this is a difficult time for the steel industry," Gerard said. "But we also recognize that for generations, these have been good, middle-class jobs that allowed workers to care for their families and support their communities. It is important that we make sure that remains true for our generation and for those who come after us."

The union said it will keep up the pressure if it can’t settle with U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal by the end of the contract. “We are planning another series of solidarity events” on Sept. 1 “at U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal headquarters, in Pittsburgh and Chicago, to show these companies that we will not allow them to force us into accepting unnecessary concessions,” the union added.

Talks with both firms are in Pittsburgh, which is also the Steelworkers headquarters.