The cycle continues

It’s funny how historic trends just keep on rolling on the Mesabi Iron Range. Bad times, then good times, then labor trouble, then pretty good times, then a crash, then bad times … repeat. We’re just about to hit good times, so here comes the labor trouble.

Iron Range Steelworkers prepare for contract talks
By Lee Bloomquist
Duluth News Tribune
Published Monday, November 19, 2007

Iron Range Steelworkers, whose labor contracts expire in nine months, already are bracing for the worst.

“A lot of people shot an extra deer this year, just in case,” said Mike Maleska, president of United Steelworkers Local 6860 at United Taconite in Eveleth and Forbes.

Labor agreements covering about 4,000 Iron Range Steelworkers expire Sept. 1, 2008.

With iron ore and steel companies reporting record revenues and demand for iron ore pellets remaining strong, negotiations are likely to be intense.

Now, I seriously doubt that a strike would occur, but you never know. Many big American companies really ramped up their efficiencies through consolidation in the last decade and it seems that some like to pass on some of the wealth to employees and others don’t. The automakers settled with unions this year by embracing a unique plan to turn over control of pensions to the unions. We’ll see how it goes with the mines as they also face retirement and health care cost woes. A painless contract settlement would make life a lot better as we enter what seem to be better, if not yet fully good, times on the Range.

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