U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal back to table with Steelworkers

worker takes a sample at steel company

Next Monday U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal will resume negotiations with the United Steelworkers of America over labor contracts at Mesabi Iron Range mines. Cliffs Natural Resources is also negotiating with Steelworkers over contracts at its mines. All of the Minnesota’s 4,500-some miners are affected by these talks.

U.S. Steel took a break from talks nine days ago to allow the union to confer with its members back home. ArcelorMittal walked away from negotiations days before that, but in practice the outcome was the same.

Miners have continued working past the Sept. 1 expiration date under the terms of the old contract. The companies are each asking for wage and especially health care benefits concessions amid the tumultuous conditions of the global iron ore market. Miners argue that restoring the industry’s strength in the marketplace should not be done on the backs of the workers.

U.S. Steel’s Minntac mine in Mt. Iron and Keewatin Taconite were both at least partially shut down over the summer. Now Minntac is back online, but KeeTac is still indefinitely idled. Cliffs’ United Taconite in Eveleth is shut down now while the company burns through huge stockpiles of ore located at the Duluth harbor. The Range’s other mines at Hibbing Taconite, AM’s small Minorca Mine in Virginia, Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay have all stayed open, but the whole industry is at risk dwindling demand in the current iron and steel market.

Most in the industry have hopes pinned on adding value to existing iron products, allowing Minnesota’s mines and American-made steel to reestablish dominance in the North American market. However, the high cost and logistical challenges of doing so have been cumbersome.

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