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Steelworkers to rally in Granite City as contract talks approach deadline

Granite City steel plant on July 20, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Steel is facing a labor issue in Granite City just months after restarting production at the Metro East plant. The company’s current national contract with the United Steelworkers is set to expire Saturday, and workers are holding a rally Thursday to draw attention to the negotiations.

An offer from U.S. Steel a few weeks ago has been rejected by the union.

“Workers are angry with the proposal,” said Dave Dowling, a sub-district director for the United Steelworkers.

It calls for wage and benefit concessions, including a bonus plan linked to U.S. Steel’s financial performance, instead of raises.

“U.S. Steel is choosing at this time to pick a fight, which makes absolutely no sense,” Dowling said. “The union is not looking for a fight.”

The United Steelworkers union has not decided what it will do if the contract expires Saturday, but Dowling said they want to avoid a work stoppage. The potential impasse comes a few months after U.S. Steel resumed production at Granite City Works following a roughly two-year idling of the plant.

The company has released a brief statement on the status of those talks:

“Our current contracts with the United Steelworkers remain in effect through Saturday evening, Sept. 1. Talks have been ongoing and we will work diligently to keep bargaining in good faith to reach an agreement. As with previous contract negotiations, our facilities will continue to operate in a safe and orderly manner. We hope to come to a mutually agreeable conclusion.”

Dave Dowling is a sub-district director for the United Steelworkers.
Credit Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio
Dave Dowling is a sub-district director for the United Steelworkers.

The contract set to expire on Saturday went into effect three years ago. The union agreed to forgo raises in that agreement because the industry was struggling.

But now, its fortunes seem to have turned around, according to the union.

“The company has been profitable. It will be profitable in this year. Analysts predict it will be profitable in the future,” Dowling said.

The contract is a national deal covering more than 16,000 workers at 24 union locals, including three at Granite City Works. The plant currently has roughly 1,200 unionized employees.

Negotiations between the union and U.S. Steel continue at its headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Follow Wayne Pratt on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.