USW members ratify new contract at Cascade Steel


By Don McIntosh

A month after members of United Steelworkers Local 8378 authorized a strike, publicly traded Schnitzer Steel improved its contract offer in a three-day last ditch round of negotiations that involved a federal mediator. The resulting three-year agreement— ratified by members Aug. 9—will raise wages 3.25% annually for the 280 workers at Schnitzer’s McMinnville steel mill complex, known as Cascade Steel Rolling Mills.

“That wasn’t quite what we hoped for on wages,” Local 8378 President Jim Blue told the Labor Press. Union negotiators had hoped to get 3.5 percent.

Because the agreement also contained concessions, the union bargaining didn’t recommend either passage or rejection. The agreement was approved with support of 61% of those voting.

“It was three hard days with the mediators,” said Blue. “Some of the members in the [bargaining] committee were not happy, but it’s better than contracts we’ve been getting.”

The first pay increase is immediate, and will be retroactive to the April 1 expiration of the previous agreement. That raise comes on top of a 60-cent per hour across-the-board wage increase that workers got in return for agreeing to end production bonuses. Production bonuses used to be substantial, but a new formula in the 2016-2019 contract reduced them from thousands of dollars a year to just hundreds.

The biggest concession is an agreement that workers will pay more for insurance. Each year of the contract workers will pay an additional 1%  of the premium. The contract sets a worker contribution target of 15% or 20%, depending on which plan workers choose.

The union also agreed to transition to a company-sponsored dental plan, but the company improved on its previous offer, agreeing to cover $2,500 a year of dental work, the same as workers now get.

The company rejected union proposals to make Veterans Day a paid holiday for veterans and to lengthen paid bereavement leave to five days.

The new agreement runs through March 30, 2022.


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