When President Trump announced that he would be imposing heavy tariffs on steel imports, thousands of steel workers across the U.S. rejoiced.
“There was a lot of excitement here; there were a lot of us saying, ‘It’s about time someone is looking out for us,’” said Richard Lattanzi, mayor of Clairton, PA, and a safety inspector at a neighboring U.S. Steel plant. “A lot of people around here were saying, ‘We’re going to be okay.’”
As The Washington Post reports, U.S. Steel is expected to profit immensely from the newly imposed tariffs. However, the initial fervor that was so rampant among employees is slowly coming to a halt, as workers realize they won’t be getting a slice of the pie.
“It’s been a little like watching the air going out of a balloon,” Lattanzi confessed.
Civics Lesson: How Much Did the U.S. Collect From Steel Tariffs?
According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. reaped approximately $1.1 billion from levies on foreign steel between March 23 and July 16 of this year.
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At first, things were looking good, with U.S. Steel promising workers an immediate raise of 4 percent, followed by 3 percent annual raises in the future. By normal standards, that would be considered generous and noble.
However, the company is reportedly struggling with soaring health care prices, and is now asking employees to pay $145 per month to help absorb some of those costs. This angered workers, who never had to pay premiums before.
“We have done so much for this company, and now they have the audacity to bring before us all these concessions when they are projected to profit $2 billion this year alone,” said Michael Young, a U.S. steel maintenance technician and a colon cancer survivor. “I want the company to leave my health care alone.”
Current projections show that requiring workers to pay health care premiums would reduce the overall wage increase to about 1.7 percent over the course of nine years.
“The bargain has always been that we work in very dirty, very dangerous, very unhealthy places, and in exchange we get good, quality health insurance at affordable prices,” said Cliff Tobey, a miner at U.S. Steel.