After taking some time to go on a hunting trip, the president of the union that represents more than 1,800 employees at AK Steel’s Middletown Works returned to learn the company was acquired by Cleveland-Cliffs on Tuesday morning.
“We had no prior knowledge about this,” said Neil Douglas, president and directing business representative for Local 1943 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “We learned when the public did. We were also surprised because we didn’t know it was coming until it was announced.”
Douglas said he started at 3 a.m. Thursday reading a stack of documents including Securities and Exchange Commission filings on the Cleveland-Cliffs acquisition of AK Steel.
“Right now we are reading the SEC filings and have requested a meeting with AK Steel officials to discuss what does this mean to the local union,” Douglas said. “There are a lot of unknowns and people are looking for answers as things develop.”
In Local 1943’s newsletter published Wednesday, union officials said they had yet to receive official notice from AK Steel’s leadership and that they were working to obtain more information. The newsletter also provided a link to Cleveland-Cliffs website where the press release was published.
Douglas said the union’s membership is protected because of language in the current contract “which means that the existing union contract must be honored by anyone purchasing AK Steel.”
He said that the union’s position is that this language protects the current two-year contract which expires on March 15, 2020.
Douglas, who has worked for AK Steel since 1998, said the union is planning to begin negotiations with the company in January on a new contract for Local 1943.
He said communication and the relationship between the company and the union have been improving in the past four to five years.
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