Can Trump Take Credit for Steelworker Pay Increases?

Posted November 14, 2018 10:16 p.m. EST

What President Donald Trump Said

“Not seen in many years, America’s steelworkers get a hard-earned raise because of my Administration’s policies to help bring back the U.S. steel industry, which is critical to our National Security. I will always protect America and its workers!” in a Twitter post on Wednesday

This requires context.

Trump was exaggerating when he said wages for steelworkers had not increased “in many years” until his policies kicked in. He is also ignoring the role of the United Steelworkers union and a strike threat in obtaining that raise.

In 2012, U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, two of the largest domestic steel producers, agreed to raise wages by 4.5 percent over three years. In 2016, when that agreement expired, the union accepted a wage freeze at both companies in the face of low demand and low steel prices.

Demand for American steel has risen, fueled in part by Trump’s 25 percent steel tariffs and by a strong economy, and has led to an increase in prices and company profits. The union acknowledged that the health of the industry compelled it to ask for higher wages this year.

“In 2015, workers recognized that the steel industry was struggling and agreed to make sacrifices so that U.S. Steel could get through some tough times,” Leo W. Gerard, the union president, said in a statement Tuesday. “Now that the company has recovered and is projected to earn nearly $2 billion this year, workers rightly wanted a share of that success.”

Negotiations between the union and the companies began in July, and were stalled because of disagreements over proposed cuts in health benefits. In September, steelworkers at U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal voted to authorize strikes.

After the threat, the union reached a new deal and ratified a contract on Tuesday with U.S. Steel that included a 14 percent wage increase over four years and preserved health benefits. ArcelorMittal has also proposed similar wage increases, though the contract has yet to be ratified.