It's Time to Get Real about U.S. Steel

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

Contract negotiations can be a tenuous experience, to say the least.  And at this time in American history, as a Union, you never know what you’re walking into when dealing with a corporation whom you hope is behaving on a level of trust for its workers.

In the case of U.S. Steel, who at best has a checkered history at the negotiating table, this round of negotiations has proven where they stand with Steelworkers who toil in their mills. 

In 2015, with the company teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and their stock plummeting, the Steelworkers (USW) held fast to preserving many benefits procured during seventy years of contracts with U.S. Steel, but realizing as well that they would have to make sacrifices when it came to wages; thus, freezing them and conceding the 40-hour work guarantee, reducing it to 32 hours over a three-year period.

In good faith, the USW stepped up to the plate to help the corporation reach some semblance of financial stability while continuing to stump for the industry, requesting that the Obama Administration levy tariffs on certain steel products which were being dumped on our shores by China below production cost. 

The USW continued to fight vehemently against the disastrous, 12-nation TPP trade agreement, which, if passed, could have been the death knell for steelmaking in America.

Under the Trump Administration, the Steelworkers increased national awareness, aiding the efforts to squash the TPP, levy more tariffs through the findings of Section 232 against an insolent Chinese government looking to corner the world steel market.

U.S. Steel, aided by the massive, nonstop efforts of USW International President Leo Gerard and his Rapid Response department, have seen their bad fortunes reverse.  The business-friendly Trump Administration also added a plum by substantially lowering the corporate tax rate; thus, allowing the corporation to rebound healthily, the stock to show substantial growth and the forecast of a bright future.  So, with a contract set to expire in early September 2018, you’d certainly think the corporation would reward Steelworker efforts. 

Guess again.

Instead, the corporate shakedown of the working proletariat continues with calls for variable wages tied to the performance of the company stock and cuts to the medical benefits of retirees.  And all while crying poverty to the workers who sacrificed wage increases, U.S. Steel executives fleeced the corporation for over $40 million dollars in wages and compensation since 2015, the same year they started speaking of bankruptcy and imminent ruin.

To David Burritt, President and CEO of U.S. Steel, the time for civility is over.  You and your contract staff may come to the table in jeans and casual shirts but no one is confusing you with the workers you’re trying to crush.  While you praise the austerity measures implemented during your Carnegie Way process, it all rings hollow to the men and women on the mill floor whose bills increase every year, but not their salary.

It’s time for U.S. Steel to approach the bargaining table and reward Steelworkers for their sacrifices, not shame them.  I leave Mister Burritt with the words of someone he probably does not know due to her philosophical bent, noted American socialist and anarchist Voltraine de Cleyre (1866-1912):

“The paramount question of the day is not political, is not religious, but is economic.

The crying out demand of today is for a circle of principles that shall forever make it impossible for one man to control another by controlling the means of his existence.”

While you’re at the bargaining table, Mister Burritt, let those words sink in.

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Rich can be contacted on Twitter @steelworker4889

You can contact Richard on Twitter @stlwrkr4889.

Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Labor Wins

From the AFL-CIO

On Tuesday, the labor movement drove historic wins for pro-worker candidates like Governor-Elect Andy Beshear in Kentucky and new legislative majorities in Virginia. Not only did union members come out to vote in droves, 270 union member candidates were elected to public office last night and counting. This adds to the total of more than 900 union members elected up and down the ballot in last year’s midterms, a product of the Union Member Candidate Program launched by the AFL-CIO just two years ago. The share of union members who won in the 2018 midterms is two-thirds. The program will continue through 2020 and beyond, electing even more union members to public office. 

“Our efforts recruiting, training and supporting labor candidates have led to the passage of pro-worker legislation from coast to coast and everywhere in between,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

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