Steelworkers oppose U.S. Steel’s sale to Nippon, unconvinced new owners will honor obligations
U.S. Steel's Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock, Pa., is among the assets being sold to Japan-based Nippon Steel. | AP

PITTSBURGH (PAI)—The Steelworkers are openly opposing the proposed $14.9 billion sale of U.S. Steel, the longtime representative of U.S. industrial might, to Nippon Steel of Japan. And a top adviser to Democratic President Joe Biden is wary of it, too.

This isn’t the first time this year U.S. Steel was on the market. Earlier, Harvard’s On Labor blog reported, its directors rejected a buyout offer from domestic competitor Cleveland-Cliffs. The union supported that deal.

Since its heyday, U.S. Steel, like much of the rest of the domestic steel industry, has lost an increasing share of the world market. It’s also shrunk and is now the sixth-largest U.S. steel company, with 15,000 workers, 11,000 of them USW members.

Still, when you say, “U.S. Steel,” everybody knows who you’re talking about. So does USW.

“To say we’re disappointed in the announced deal between U.S. Steel and Nippon is an understatement, as it demonstrates the same greedy, shortsighted attitude that has guided U.S. Steel for far too long,” union President David McCall said.

“Neither U.S. Steel nor Nippon reached out to our union regarding the deal, which is in itself a violation of our partnership agreement that requires U.S. Steel to notify us of a change in control or business conditions.

“Based on this alone, the USW does not believe Nippon understands the full breadth of the obligations of all our agreements, and we do not know whether it has the capacity to live up to our existing contract. This includes not just the day-to-day commitments of our labor agreement, but also significant obligations to fund pension and retiree insurance benefits that are the most extensive in the domestic steel industry.

“Our union intends to exercise the full measure of our agreements to ensure that whatever happens next with U.S. Steel, we protect the good, family-sustaining jobs we bargained…. Rest assured, our union will hold management at U.S. Steel accountable to every letter of our collective bargaining and other existing agreements.”

Top Biden economic adviser Lael Brainerd said the administration was reviewing the deal, focusing on what it called “national security” concerns rather than company obligations to workers. “The president believes U.S. Steel was an integral part of our arsenal of democracy in WWII and remains a core component of the overall domestic steel production that is critical to our national security,” Brainerd said.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.