Via a report from POLITICO, the United Steelworkers union today authorized its negotiating party to initiate a strike against ArcelorMittal, the multinational steel company.
The union maintains that ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, with whom it’s been in contentious contract negotiations, have been unwilling to share profits from President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel together account for 40 percent of flat-rolled steel production.
“Now that [ArcelorMittal] is generating enormous — even historic — amounts of cash, it is an insult that bargaining progress has been hindered by management’s unrealistic concessionary demands and unfair labor practices,” said United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard in a written statement.
An ArcelorMittal spokeswoman noted that the parties signed an extension agreement for the previous contract, which expired Sept. 1.
“Talks continue this week and we continue to work diligently to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “Further, our plants continue to operate in a safe and orderly fashion.”
The strike vote came from more than a dozen local unions representing about 15,000 workers.
Congressional Democrats on Wednesday unveiled The Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act, a set of proposals to bolster the nation’s labor laws in an election-year quest to recapture working-class voters.
The plan, which would tip the balance of power toward unions in a way not seen since the National Labor Relations Act became law in 1935, stands virtually no chance of passage in a Republican-controlled Congress. But Democrats framed it as an attempt to reconnect with voters attracted to the anti-establishment working-class messages of President Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“The Golden Era in America was defined by the existence of unions,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Since then, unions have been under relentless attack by big corporate special interests backed by Congressional Republicans. If Mr. Trump truly wants to make America great again, he needs to start by protecting the American worker and disassembling the rigged system that undermines workers’ freedoms instead of empowering special interests and big corporations.”
The bill — sponsored by Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) — would overturn several Supreme Court decisions unfavorable to organized labor. It also would allow the National Labor Relations Board to level monetary penalties in excess of reimbursing back pay, and would hold corporate officers personally liable for labor violations.
The bill also would allow employees to bypass the NLRB altogether to resolve labor disputes, allowing them to sue employers in court.
The bill would overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, which permitted employers to impose mandatory arbitration agreements on employees, and would pre-emptively reverse an anticipated Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME that’s expected to outlaw “fair share” fees that public employee unions charge non-members to cover their share of collective bargaining costs.
The Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act protects the freedom to join a union by
(1) Bolstering Remedies and Punishing Violations of Workers’ Rights
(2) Strengthening Workers’ Freedom to Stand Together and Negotiate for Better Working Conditions
(3) Restoring Fairness to an Economy that is Rigged Against Workers
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law that protects workers’ right to stand together and
negotiate with their employers, does not empower workers to enforce their labor rights in court or permit the
Board to assess monetary penalties that could deter and punish unlawful conduct, such as firing workers for
seeking a union or insisting on better working conditions. In response, the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act:
In the Supreme Court, in Congress, and in state legislatures, conservative ideologues have attacked workers’ rights
to stand together to improve their working conditions. In response, the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act:
Too often, greedy employers have exploited labor laws to deprive workers of their pay, benefits, and rights, and
the federal government does too little to ensure the contractors they hire with taxpayer funds are following labor
laws. In response, the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act:
This is an unusual labor relations development, reminiscent of a neutrality agreement. POLITICO is reporting that Georgetown University leaders have agreed to conduct a private to determine if their graduate students wish to be represented by a union. The NLRB will not conduct the election.
Georgetown University said it will recognize a graduate employees’ union should students vote to unionize — even if the NLRB rolls back an Obama-era decision allowing student workers to organize.
“Georgetown will respect our rights to vote for a union and collectively bargain a contract even if the NLRB reverses its earlier decision allowing graduate workers to unionize,” the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees tweeted today. “This is a MAJOR step forward in our negotiations with @Georgetown.”
Georgetown’s position is a sharp contrast with other major universities that have tried to limit graduate students’ collective bargaining rights. In a 2016 case involving Columbia University, the NLRB ruled that graduate student workers are covered by the National Labor Relations Act. Historically faith-based universities have tested the limits of religious exemptions, though the NLRB has taken the stance that only students whose job directly includes a religious component are exempt.
The new Republican-controlled NLRB is expected to reverse the landmark decision.