Steelworkers ratify contract with Cleveland-Cliffs

Members of the United Steelworkers of America voted to ratify a new labor contract with Cleveland-Cliffs this week. The new deal maintains their current benefits while increasing their pay.

Cliffs operates United Taconite and, until next year, contracts to operate Hibbing Taconite. Their plant at Northshore Mining is nonunion.

Negotiations with U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal remain unresolved after a much more contentious process. Those companies drove a harder bargain on health care costs. Steelworker locals at U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal properties authorized a strike by overwhelming margins.

Nevertheless, I keep hearing that workers expect a good deal to be achieved eventually, and perhaps soon. The Cliffs deal establishes a precedent that can be used elsewhere. A strike at U.S. Steel and A-M seemed probable a month ago, but less so now.

If you’re a miner, you’re looking at a good year. The mines run hot and most people are due for a pay increase that will last at least three years.

Politically, this will play as an argument for the status quo. That means President Trump and tariffs, even though the president and his policies are less popular elsewhere. The Steelworkers endorsed Democrat Joe Radinovich who stood by their side during negotiations this year. But Trump is telling them to vote for Republican Pete Stauber. We’ll see who ends up benefitting.

The economic and political chaos of the Trump Era will eventually hurt the Iron Range. The boom will end. New technology will continue to build profits while creating fewer, but better-paying jobs. But none of those negative effects will likely manifest before the Nov. 6 midterm election.

The prevailing attitude on the Mesabi seems to be get what you can while you can. And these new Steelworkers contracts will at least keep some of the money local.

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