Relief on Iron Range after labor deal is reached

Welcome to Keewatin
Welcome sign outside the town of Keewatin, on Highway 169.
MPR Photo/Bob Kelleher

Leaders of some Iron Range communities are breathing a sigh of relief after the United Steelworkers union agreed to terms Sunday on a new labor contract with U.S. Steel.

The company employs roughly 1,300 union members at its MinnTac and KeeTac facilities on the Range.

"The last thing you want is a shutdown or a lockout or a strike or something like that," said Gary Skalko, the mayor of Mountain Iron, home to MinnTac, the largest taconite operation in Minnesota. "So this is really positive news for not only the citiy of Mountain Iron, but for our whole region."

Labor talks are still ongoing with Arcelor Mittal, which runs the Minorca Mine in Virginia, and Cliffs Natural Resources, operator of Hibbing Taconite and United Taconite in Eveleth. For now union members will work under the terms of their current contract while they work out a new deal.

Together the three companies employ nearly 3,000 union members at five facilities on Minnesota's Iron Range.

Workers at MinnTac and KeeTac will vote on their agreement after they review the details over the next few weeks.

Keewatin Mayor William King says he breathed a sigh of relief when the deal was reached.

"I can remember times when these guys, when miners are out of work, and it's devastating to our small community," Kirg said. "So it's great news."

The new U.S. Steel contract covers more than 16,000 workers around the country.

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