Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 18, 2023
PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers and the United Steelworkers union blasted a proposed deal that would see U.S. Steel acquired by Nippon Steel of Japan for more than $14 billion, with U.S. Sen. John Fetterman vowing to do anything he can to block the sale.
“I stand with the men and women of the Steelworkers and their union way of life,” Fetterman said in a statement. “We cannot allow them to be screwed over or left behind. I promise to them and to all forgotten communities across Pennsylvania that I will work with Senator Casey and the rest of the delegation to fight like hell to make this right.”
After months of speculation that the 122-year-old steel manufacturer would be sold to one of a few possible bidders, the deal with Nippon was announced Monday. The all-cash deal represented a 40% premium over U.S. Steel’s closing price on Dec. 15. It’s subject to regulatory approval, but the companies said they expect it to close in the second or third quarter of 2024.
U.S. Steel’s stock was up 26% at the market close on Monday.
“Today’s announcement also benefits the United States — ensuring a competitive, domestic steel industry, while strengthening our presence globally,” U.S. Steel CEO David Burritt said in a statement announcing the deal. During a conference call with investors after the announcement Burritt said “U.S. Steel’s best days are ahead, together.”
As of October, U.S. Steel employed 3,703 workers in Pennsylvania, including plants in Braddock and Clairton. The companies said U.S. Steel would “retain its iconic name, brand, and headquarters in Pittsburgh.”
That reassurance appeared insufficient for Pennsylvania’s Democrats in Congress, however. Fetterman released a video on social media from his home in Braddock, directly across the street from the company’s Edgar Thompson Works plant.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that U.S. Steel has agreed to sell themselves to a foreign company,” Fetterman said. “Steel is always about security — both our national security and the economic security of our steel communities. I am committed to doing anything I can do, using my platform and my position, to block this foreign sale.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) echoed Fetterman, saying the acquisition appeared to be a bad deal for Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania workers. “The United States’ marquee steel company should remain under American ownership.” Casey said in a statement. “I’m concerned about what this means for the Steelworkers and the good union jobs that have supported Pennsylvania families for generations, for the long-term investment in the Commonwealth, and for American industrial leadership.”
Casey’s likely GOP opponent for Senate in 2024, David McCormick, tried to pin the blame on Casey and President Joe Biden, saying in a post to social media that the two “have weakened America’s national security and economic standing in the world. We need to be a manufacturing country, with Americans working for American companies.”
U.S. Rep Chris Deluzio (D-17th District) said he would fight the deal as well, saying the acquisition represented a “betrayal” of American industrial leadership.
“Our region knows all too well what it’s like to get screwed over, to see our hard work tossed aside and our good union jobs shipped overseas by corporate executives and Wall Street chasing cheap labor and fatter profits,” Deluzio said. “Today’s announced sale to a foreign company feels like deja vu all over again.”
Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) was one of the voices expressing optimism about the sale on Monday. “U.S. Steel helped build this country and we will continue to do all we can to maintain its presence where it belongs – Pittsburgh,” Ward said in a statement. “While details of the sale are still to be determined, it’s encouraging to hear the collective bargaining agreements will be honored and U.S. Steel will remain a part of the fabric of our community.”
But United Steelworkers International President David McCall criticized the deal in a statement Monday, saying the union was “disappointed.” USW had expressed support for an offer by Cleveland Cliffs to acquire U.S. Steel for $7.3 billion, but the U.S. Steel board rejected that offer in August.
“We remained open throughout this process to working with U.S. Steel to keep this iconic American company domestically owned and operated, but instead it chose to push aside the concerns of its dedicated workforce and sell to a foreign-owned company,” McCall said.
The USW also said neither company reached out to the union, which represents 850,000 workers, including some 11,000 at U.S. Steel, an apparent violation of the partnership agreement that requires US Steel to notify the union of a change in control or business conditions.
“Based on this alone, the USW does not believe that Nippon understands the full breadth of the obligations of all our agreements, and we do not know whether it has the capacity to live up to our existing contract,” McCall said. “This includes not just the day-to-day commitments of our labor agreement, but also significant obligations to fund pension and retiree insurance benefits that are the most extensive in the domestic steel industry.”
In the release announcing the deal, the company said all of U.S. Steel’s commitments with employees “including all collective bargaining agreements in place with its unions, will be honored,” and that Nippon was “committed to maintaining these relationships uninterrupted.”
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: email@example.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.