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Despite a "Trump bump," steelworkers are mad as hell — and ready to revolt

The industry is up, but its employees wouldn't know it from their paychecks: "We got shit on," one U.S. steelworker explains.

by Evan McMorris-Santoro
Sep 20 2018, 2:15pm

PITTSBURGH — These are good days for American manufacturing. But in the heart of Steel Country, there's talk of a historic strike that could shut the whole thing down.

Trump promised blue-collar manufacturing workers across the country that he'd revitalize their industries and create new jobs. For steelworkers, the plan was direct: Trump vowed to create tariffs that would make foreign steel less competitive, and promised to dramatically increase the defense budget, guaranteeing steel manufacturers a powerful, deep-pocketed customer. He said he would slash environmental regulations that could make being a polluter very expensive.

Trump did many of those things, and for the time being, American-made steel is a hot commodity again. A slumping industry has enjoyed a turnaround, and the industry's profits have more than doubled.

But the steelworkers — many of them white men who voted for Trump — say they haven't gotten any benefits from their industry's rising fortune. The United Steelworkers union represents a lot of those people, and right now, they're trying to negotiate a new contract with U.S. Steel, a firm that runs plants dating all the way back to the days of Andrew Carnegie.

U.S. Steel says it's offering some of its windfall to its workers. But the workers say they're being asked to make sacrifices at a time when their industry is raking it in. As a result, the USW is ready to strike — and the order starting a 48-hour shutdown process could come at any moment.

VICE News talked to steelworkers in the Pittsburgh area about their relationship to U.S. Steel — and to the president who promised them so much.

This segment originally aired September 19, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Video Credits: Producer: Seth Dalton, Co-Producers: Mimi Dwyer and Nick Childers, DP: Nick Childers, Editor: Ryo Ikegami