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Steelworkers hope rallies will help push for contract

With the previous labor contract between United Steelworkers and ArcelorMittal having recently expired, the union has announced plans for practice picketing and rallies in hopes of convincing the large steel manufacturer to agree to a new deal. These developments emerge alongside talks for other employment contracts, including one between steelworkers in Michigan and Cliff Natural Resources. Those parties agreed to extend their previous contract while negotiations continue, but United Steelworkers and ArcelorMittal have reached no such arrangement.

The dispute between ArcelorMittal and United Steelworkers is centered around three contentious issues. The manufacturer wishes to stop a planned $10,000 pension payment to retirees under the Steelworkers Pension Trust plan and end its obligation to fund 80 percent of a defined-benefit pension plan reached with the now-defunct Inland Steel. The union claims that ArcelorMittal is also refusing to pay for an important health care benefit trust. ArcelorMittal has not responded to requests for comment on the matter.

Officials with the union said the steelworkers would refrain from calling a strike and continue working in the hope that a new contract can soon be reached. United Steelworkers represents over 800,000 workers, making it the largest industrial labor union in North America. Likewise, ArcelorMittal is the biggest steel producer in the world. This could make a strike particularly impactful and could prompt ArcelorMittal to agree to concessions in order to avoid lost profits.

United Steelworkers recently agreed on a separate three-year contract with U.S. Steel. While the deal has yet to be approved, it is likely to affect about 15,000 workers from across the United States. Union members are expected to vote on the contract in the coming weeks.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Steelworkers to stage rallies at ArcelorMittal plants Wednesday," Dee DePass, Sep. 5, 2012

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