Local Steelworker Unions Vote to Authorize a Strike

Strike could come if union officials call one after upcoming negotiations with U.S. Steel

KEEWATIN, Minn. – After months of negotiations, no deal has been reached between U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers union.

Now, local unions are voting to authorize a strike.

Monday, workers from the MinnTac mine in Mountain Iron voted unanimously to authorize a strike.

Tuesday, workers at the KeeTac mine in Keewatin voted to do the same.

If a strike authorized by all the local offices, the United Steelworkers union could choose to call one after the next round of negotiations with U.S. Steel.

But, a potential strike is what many call a lose-lose situation.

“Nobody wins for this,” said Virgina Mayor Larry Cuffe, Jr. “The mining companies don’t win and the workforce doesn’t win either.”

Votes to authorize a strike come at a profitable time for the steel industry.

“It’s the first time that I can recall that these steel tariffs have taken effect to help these mining companies get on a level playing field with foreign steel and I hate to see that disrupted,” said Cuffe.

Cuffe says the economy is doing well in Virginia, with new developments coming and local businesses expanding.

He thinks an extended strike could be disastrous to the progress there.

“We hope this is short because it will have a significant economic effect on the quad city area,” said Cuffe.

Local union leaders say they don’t want to see a strike happen either.

“There’s nobody at any of these unions across the country and especially on the Iron Range that wants a strike but, once you get into these kinds of bargainings and these kind of negotiations, sometimes that’s your only tool that you have left in the toolbox,” said Cliff Tobey, President of the Local Steelworkers 2660 at KeeTac.

Tobey says the two sides are still miles apart on the negotiations, but U.S. Steel released a statement today saying they “do not anticipate a strike.”

According to their website, the company is offering workers wage increases for the next six years.

The union says that’s not enough and there are still too many concessions they’re being asked to make.

“We took sacrifices when we needed to and now that the company’s fortunes have turned around and the industry has really been on an up beat, we find ourselves in concessionary type bargaining and that’s really what drew us to have the strike authorization votes,” said Tobey.

Union reps will return to Pittsburgh as early as next week for another round of negotiations.

If a strike is authorized and no deal is reached, the union could choose to strike.

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