It's Time to Get Real about U.S. Steel

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

Contract negotiations can be a tenuous experience, to say the least.  And at this time in American history, as a Union, you never know what you’re walking into when dealing with a corporation whom you hope is behaving on a level of trust for its workers.

In the case of U.S. Steel, who at best has a checkered history at the negotiating table, this round of negotiations has proven where they stand with Steelworkers who toil in their mills. 

In 2015, with the company teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and their stock plummeting, the Steelworkers (USW) held fast to preserving many benefits procured during seventy years of contracts with U.S. Steel, but realizing as well that they would have to make sacrifices when it came to wages; thus, freezing them and conceding the 40-hour work guarantee, reducing it to 32 hours over a three-year period.

In good faith, the USW stepped up to the plate to help the corporation reach some semblance of financial stability while continuing to stump for the industry, requesting that the Obama Administration levy tariffs on certain steel products which were being dumped on our shores by China below production cost. 

The USW continued to fight vehemently against the disastrous, 12-nation TPP trade agreement, which, if passed, could have been the death knell for steelmaking in America.

Under the Trump Administration, the Steelworkers increased national awareness, aiding the efforts to squash the TPP, levy more tariffs through the findings of Section 232 against an insolent Chinese government looking to corner the world steel market.

U.S. Steel, aided by the massive, nonstop efforts of USW International President Leo Gerard and his Rapid Response department, have seen their bad fortunes reverse.  The business-friendly Trump Administration also added a plum by substantially lowering the corporate tax rate; thus, allowing the corporation to rebound healthily, the stock to show substantial growth and the forecast of a bright future.  So, with a contract set to expire in early September 2018, you’d certainly think the corporation would reward Steelworker efforts. 

Guess again.

Instead, the corporate shakedown of the working proletariat continues with calls for variable wages tied to the performance of the company stock and cuts to the medical benefits of retirees.  And all while crying poverty to the workers who sacrificed wage increases, U.S. Steel executives fleeced the corporation for over $40 million dollars in wages and compensation since 2015, the same year they started speaking of bankruptcy and imminent ruin.

To David Burritt, President and CEO of U.S. Steel, the time for civility is over.  You and your contract staff may come to the table in jeans and casual shirts but no one is confusing you with the workers you’re trying to crush.  While you praise the austerity measures implemented during your Carnegie Way process, it all rings hollow to the men and women on the mill floor whose bills increase every year, but not their salary.

It’s time for U.S. Steel to approach the bargaining table and reward Steelworkers for their sacrifices, not shame them.  I leave Mister Burritt with the words of someone he probably does not know due to her philosophical bent, noted American socialist and anarchist Voltraine de Cleyre (1866-1912):

“The paramount question of the day is not political, is not religious, but is economic.

The crying out demand of today is for a circle of principles that shall forever make it impossible for one man to control another by controlling the means of his existence.”

While you’re at the bargaining table, Mister Burritt, let those words sink in.

***

Rich can be contacted on Twitter @steelworker4889

You can contact Richard on Twitter @stlwrkr4889.

Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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