SHELBY -- Nearly 500 employees at ArcelorMittal are on strike after the company and United Steel Workers Local 3057 failed to come to an agreement during contract negotiations.
Employees voted overwhelmingly in favor of a walkout when their contract expired at midnight on Sunday, according to USW representative Brian Sealy.
The union has been bargaining with ArcelorMittal for about seven weeks. Sealy said the company's representative made its final offer Sunday, then left to drive back to Pennsylvania before members could discuss whether to accept it.
“We were moving right along with proposals back and forth yesterday in an attempt to reach an agreement,” he told Richland Source on Monday. “It caught us totally by surprise.”
ArcelorMittal did not respond to email requests for comment.
According to Sealy, there are multiple issues union members want addressed in the new contract. One is that employees are currently scheduled seven days a week.
“They’re tired. They want guaranteed time off,” he said. "I don’t believe we’re asking for something out of the norm. We’re just asking for the weekend off.”
Healthcare is also an issue. Sealy said premiums have continued to rise for workers and wage growth has not outpaced the cost.
Pension growth has also been stagnant and worker can only make contributions for up to 40 hours per week.
“Here a normal work week is 56 hours,” Sealy said.
Sealy said the company’s final offer is not fair to the workers, but that negotiations were moving in a positive direction. He added that ArcelorMittal indicated they are willing to continue negotiations since the strike began.
Sealy did not have a negotiation meeting scheduled as of Monday morning, but said he was optimistic that an agreement can be reached in the near future.
“We’re waiting to sit back down with them and get this thing done,” he said. “Our guys don’t want to be out here. We’d rather be in there making a living.”
ArcelorMittal's Shelby plant has been in business for more than 130 years. Founded in 1890, it started with producing bicycle parts and morphed into different products.
The company made bomb casings and many other military products during the two World Wars. Nowadays, it manufactures welded and seamless tubes for various uses.