Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Marick Masters on U.S. Steelworkers labor deal

The United Steelworkers union is urging about 15,000 members at U.S. Steel to ratify a four-year labor deal that the organization’s leadership reached two weeks ago with the Pittsburgh steelmaker. The question that members will consider over the next two weeks: Is it good enough? The tentative agreement announced on Oct. 15 contains a 14 percent wage increase over four years, a $4,000 signing bonus for each union member and no major changes to health care benefits. Nationally, in contracts bargained in 2017, union workers in the manufacturing industry received annual wage increases of 3 percent, 2.4 percent and 2.3 percent over the three years — a total of 7.7 percent over the life of the contract, according to Marick Masters, a labor relations professor at Wayne State University. The first three years of the USW contract promises wage increases of 11 percent — 4 percent, 3.5 percent and 3.5 percent in 2018 to 2020. The fourth year of the contract calls for a 3 percent increase. Masters, a University of Pittsburgh professor from 1986 to 2009 who studies labor contracts, said that’s a sign the USW got a pretty good deal. The signing bonus, though not uncommon in manufacturing contracts, represents a “non-trivial amount of money to put in people’s pockets.” “They started in a very adversarial state, and given where they ended up, it’s good news for the union and its members,” Masters said. “I think they made a lot of progress and their strategy proved to be effective.”

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