Michigan steelworkers working despite expired contract

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

More than 1,800 U.S. Steel Corp. workers in Ecorse are continuing to work despite their contract expiring earlier this week.

The Great Lakes Works workers are among 17,000 represented by the United Steelworkers union, which has been in contract negotiations with the Pittsburgh-based steel manufacturer since early-July. The contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

“Although major differences remain on economic and non-economic issues, we continue to work hard and push forward toward a fair agreement,” USW said in a bargaining update earlier this week.

A representative for USW Local 1299, which represents the Ecorse workers, said major hurdles remain in negotiations, including health care costs, a guaranteed 40-hour work week and requirements for overtime.

Great Lakes Works manufactures hot-rolled, cold-rolled and coated sheet steels that are used primarily by customers in the automotive industry.

A spokesperson for U.S. Steel did not immediately respond for comment on negotiations.

Both sides agreed to keep workers working to “give the parties the fullest possible opportunity to resolve their differences and thereby avoid a work stoppage,” according to a bargaining update earlier this week from USW Vice President Thomas M. Conway.

The union agreed to give the company at least 48 hours notice if it plans to strike to meet with company representatives to “assure that arrangements are put in place for an orderly and safe shutdown of the company’s facilities.”

USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors.

USW also is in master agreement talks with steel producers Arcelor Mittal and Allegheny Technologies. Their contracts also expired on Tuesday. The agreements cover about 30,000 at the three companies.

“We must continue to send the message to management at all three of these companies that we are committed to negotiating fair contracts throughout the industry and will not allow them to use the current market as an excuse to gut our contracts,” USW said.

The USW talks do not directly relate to the ongoing contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and Detroit automakers. Their contracts are set to expire Sept. 14.

mwayland@detroitnews.com

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