U.S. NEWS
09/10/2018 02:55 am ET

Steelworkers Vote To Strike If They Don't Get Piece Of Corporate Windfall

Workers seek pay raises and protection of health care and pension benefits.

Workers for U.S. Steel will head back to the bargaining table on Monday, armed with a nationwide strike authorization vote.

With corporations awash in tax cuts and protected from competition by Trump administration tariffs, United Steelworkers (USW) leaders say members want a contract deal that provides them with a portion of that windfall.

“Top company officials have given themselves more than $50 million in pay and bonuses since 2015 while the hourly workforce has not received a wage increase over the same period,” said a union statement.

“Angry USW members conducted strike authorization meetings at each U.S. Steel local over the past week,” the USW said in a statement, noting that there were “overwhelming” or even unanimous yes votes in every local, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there hasn’t been a work stoppage at U.S. Steel since a six-month lockout of workers in 1986.

“Between the tariffs and the tax break for corporations, they stand to make $2 billion this year,” Don Furko, president of USW Local 1557 in Clairton, Pennsylvania, told the Post-Gazette.

The workers, meanwhile, are struggling to make ends meet and pay for health care, he added.

A three-year U.S. Steel contract for close to 16,000 USW members nationwide ran out September 2 and workers are operating on a rolling temporary contract.

The union is battling for hourly increases and protection of health care and pension benefits. 

U.S. Steel said it’s offering profit-sharing, a 4-percent raise in the first year of a six-year contract, 3 percent for each of the next two years, then 1 percent per year for the rest of the contract. Although the company has also offered a one-time payment of $5,000 toward health care costs, it is also demanding that workers cover a larger portion of insurance costs, the union said.

Furko said that even with the one-time payment, workers would have steep out-of-pocket expenses for family coverage.

“They keep on chipping away at health care, making it worse,” Furko said.

“While we are aware of the strike authorization vote, talks are ongoing and we continue to work diligently to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion,” a USS spokeswoman said in a statement.

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