NLMK strike: After 6 months, an end in sight

Michael Roknick, The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
·2 min read

Feb. 18—FARRELL — Just shy of six months after union employees at NLMK Pennsylvania's steel mill in Farrell went on strike, their return to work may be in sight.

Jim Wells, president of United Steelworkers Local 1016-03, said the two sides reached a tentative agreement during negotiations Wednesday. Wells did not release particular elements of the potential contract, pending notification of union rank and file.

"I can't really get into details until I meet with the membership," he said.

Bob Miller, president of NLMK Pennsylvania, also did not provide details. When asked if the contract would run for four years, as was proposed in previous offers, he said, "That's a number we've been working with all along."

Wells said he would present the employees with the tentative contract late next week, with a likely vote to come the week of Monday, March 1.

The union represents more than 400 employees at NLMK's mill in Farrell, who went on strike Aug. 22. The two sides had been unable to come to an agreement primarily over health care insurance for the employees.

Union leadership had said NLMK had proposed health insurance options that would have been been "unaffordable" for employees, a charge management denied.

Miller said the two sides had reached an agreement on health insurance during the latest round of discussions, which cleared the largest obstacle to an agreement.

"Health care has been the whole thing since day one," he said.

As the strike progressed, both sides got their share of good news.

In late October, the state Department of Labor and Industry Office of Unemployment Benefits ruled that the union employees had been locked out and were therefore eligible for unemployment compensation.

Almost exactly a month later, NLMK Pennsylvania reached an agreement with the U.S. Commerce Department that resulted in the federal government refunding a portion of tariffs paid by the company under former President Donald J. Trump's system of levies on foreign-made steel.

The company had paid more than $170 million in tariffs, but Miller did not reveal the exact amount that the federal government would refund.

With the apparent resolution, NLMK Pennsylvania would return to full capacity manufacturing. During much of the strike, non-union workers have been producing steel coil at the factory. Miller credited those employees for working on the factory floor.

The process of presenting the tentative contract could be an extensive effort, Miller said.

"The union bargaining committee has a lot of information to pull together to present to its members," he said.