ArcelorMittal employees rally for contract settlement
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2012 6:20PM
(Left to right) Jamie and Jason Vaughn, of Griffith and Eddie Gonzales of East Chicago picket outside of the west entrance to Arcelor/Mittal in East Chicago on Wednesday September 5, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 8:06AM
EAST CHICAGO — ArcelorMittal employees hope a tentative agreement reached Sunday between the United Steelworkers and U.S. Steel will speed up talks on a new contract.
Several hundred employees and retirees marched on the streets outside the Indiana Harbor plant’s main office Wednesday afternoon in support of a “fair and equitable” contract. Employees at Burns Harbor and other U.S. plants also rallied. The contract expired at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, but management agreed to honor the terms of that contract while negotiations continue in Pittsburgh.
The United Steelworkers did not release a contract update by 5 p.m. Wednesday, saying talks were ongoing. But the Tuesday update emphasized that the union and company were still divided on three issues: retiree health care premiums, pension contributions, and different pay scales for new and existing hires.
Highland resident Steve Barney, who has worked at the plant for 40 years, said he hopes the employee demonstration shows the company that the union stands strong on these issues.
“If U.S. Steel signs on, it put pressure on ArcelorMittal to come to an agreement,” Barney said. “They’re going to be rolling steel and we’re not. If that’s the case, customers could go away, and they might not come back.”
Valparaiso resident Mike Porter said the issues are quite clear for workers.
“All we want is a good living and good retirement, but they’re trying to take that away from us,” Porter said.
He said increased health care premiums for retirees would be a burden because many are on fixed incomes. As for a proposed lower pay scale for new hires, Porter said all that would do is create animosity between different classes of workers.
Retiree Dave Mendoza said good benefits are important for steel employees.
“If you come to the mill, you should get a good pension,” the Hammond resident said. “It’s such dangerous work that you need these guarantees.”