VALPARAISO, Ind.—After a brief strike in late June, more than 80 workers at the Union Electric Steel plant in Valparaiso ratified a four-year contract that will give them a 10.5% raise.
Members of International Association of Machinists Local 2018 had previously rejected the company’s offer of a 9% raise, but about two-thirds approved the revised deal, which will also give them lower-cost health insurance. “We switched over from their private insurer to a different union plan with lower out-of-pocket and deductibles,” worker Kyle Yarnell told the Times of Northwest Indiana. “The negotiating committee was able to stick to their guns and we got one of our best contracts in a long time.” The union had gotten a 9% raise in 2014, when the plant, which makes forged and cast rolls for steel mills, was suffering from a downturn in the industry, but this year, Union Electric Steel is handling three times as many orders. “It’s public record whether the company is profitable or not profitable, and that helps a lot,” Yarnell said. “If they claim to be losing money, you want to be able to tell them, ‘No, you’re not.’”