On September 1, 2018, the contract between U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers (USW) expired. Steelworkers under the previous contract had not received a wage increase in over three years, with many facing high out-of-pocket health care costs – upwards of $8,000 annually. The workers rightfully demanded their due pay for their work. U.S. Steel gave a pitiful offer to the union’s workers. As a result, the steelworkers of the USW voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if negotiations are not favorable towards the workers.
According to the Economic Impact Study conducted by the American Iron and Steel Institute, the iron and steel industry contributed $520 billion dollars to the economy in 2017, and $56 billion in tax dollars, all the while paying a mere $53 billion in overall wages. This means iron and steel workers are only seeing 9.8% of the value they create through their work.
Given the great impact and importance of the industry to the economy, and to national defense according to the Department of Energy, the demands of the USW seem more than reasonable. The union is seeking a 14% overall increase in wages over the term of the agreement (six years), offset medical costs with transition payments, guaranteed profit-sharing, a fixing of the companies broken pension system, and a stopping of the anti-union efforts the company conducts amongst its employees.
In response, U.S. Steel offered an extension of the current contract and a 4% rise in the first year, 3% in the second year, and 1% to be dispersed among the latter four years. In response to this, the USW has authorized a strike of its workers in U.S. Steel, which account for over 16,000 of the companies’ workers.
This has also led to workers in another major steel company, ArcelorMittal, to enter into talks on September 23 to authorize a strike against the company which treats its workers with comparable conditions of exploitation. The two companies together employ over 30,000 USW members.
Given the importance of the industry to the national economy, and it’s massive importance to regional economies across the country, it is expected that U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal will give a better offer now that they are facing strikes.
The American Party of Labor stands in solidarity with the steelworkers and urges all groups and individuals who stand with labor to reach out to local branches of the USW and see what can be done to help.
ALL POWER TO THE WORKERS!
DOWN WITH THE STEEL BARONS!