Cliffs, United Steelworkers begin talks

ISHPEMING — The United Steelworkers Bargaining Committee kicked off negotiation on the union’s master agreement with Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. in Pittsburgh on Friday, with several days of internal discussions and meetings between union officials ad company representatives.

The contract covering over 2,000 members of USW Locals 4950 and 4974 at the Tilden Mine and two locals in Minnesota is set to expire on Oct. 1, according to a USW press release on Friday.

Cliffs’ Minnesota mines include United Taconite in Eveleth, and Hibbing Taconite.

Union officials spent several weeks conducting local-level discussions that focus on issues specific to individual facilities, prior to entering into negotiations with Cliffs, the release states.

The talks included the exchange of initial proposals between the company and union on master-agreement issues, with more proposals expected to be exchanged this week, officials say.

“So far those exchanges are in their very early stages,” the release states. “We expect to see more proposals next week that should give us a clearer picture of the company’s approach to this round of bargaining. We will keep everyone informed as we find out more.”

Efforts to reach Local 4950 and Local 4974 representatives were unsuccessful prior to press time.

The last set of contract negotiations began in 2015 and took over a year to complete. The contract, which was retroactive to Oct. 1, 2015 was ratified on Sept. 29, 2016.

There has been no word from Cliffs’ officials on whether they will reopen the Empire Mine, idled in 2016 resulting in the loss of approximately 300 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, or pursue a new mine in Minnesota.