No new contracts, but Iron Range workers will keep working during talks

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The end of August brought the expiration of labor contracts for 2,300 Minnesota mine workers.

But employees of U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal will stay on the job, having been instructed by the United Steelworkers union to keep working while contract talks continue, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

A strike or lockout on the Iron Range would only add to the woes of workers in the slumping steel and iron industry.

The union said Monday its members will keep working under terms of the expiring contracts while talks in Pittsburgh continue, and U.S. Steel said it's committed to operating its facilities throughout the negotiations, the News Tribune reports.

The Steelworkers say the agreements with the two companies cover a total of 30,000 workers. The union plans Tuesday rallies at U.S. Steel headquarters in Pittsburgh and at ArcelorMittal's offices in Chicago and in northern Indiana.

As for the Iron Range, a union official tells WDIO workers at ArcelorMittal's Minorca mine in Virginia plan informational picketing but there will be no work stoppage.

WDIO says under the steelworkers' proposals to both companies, the union agrees to provide at least 48 hours notice if it intends to strike.

Steel industry slumping

This year's downturn in steel production means iron and taconite have accumulated at steel mills, prompting companies to shut down production until economic conditions improve.

Most of Minntac's workers are expected to be called back to the mine in September but there's no such indication at Keewatin.

According to the News Tribune, about 300 people work at the Minorca taconite mine, while U.S. Steel employs 1,500 at its Minntac facility in Mountain Iron and nearly 500 at Keetac in Keewatin.

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