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United Steelworkers go for Biden, talk outlook of industry

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EVELETH, MN -- A tale of two Iron Ranges.

When Vice President Mike Pence visited Duluth some Iron Range mayors spoke out in support of the Trump administration, saying the Iron Range is “roaring” back.

The United Steelworkers (USW) see things differently.

"If the Iron Range is roaring back, I want someone to go tell that to the over 300 people at Keetac who are laid off, have been laid off," said John Arbogast, with United Steelworkers District 11.

"The steel industry isn't doing good; the prices are bad. The Iron Range suffers when steel suffers, so that's the reality."

While most Iron Range mines are operating once again, there are still nearly 300 workers at Keewatin Taconite who don’t know when they’ll be back on the job.

"Our biggest concern is our Keetac brothers and sisters. The other mines are running but look at U.S. Steel alone. Great Lakes Works in Michigan is closed permanently, that was four to six million tons of pellets that came from the Minntac mine.”

Heading into an election USW has a list of top priorities.

"Collective bargaining, safety, and health, job security, trade, domestic issues, healthcare," said Arbogast.

Based on those issues, the union endorsed Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, for President of the United States.

Arbogast said some members weren't happy with the endorsement of Biden but, ultimately, he said their focus is on protecting workers' rights.

"We feel that some of the things that have happened with the National Labor Relations Board and some of the attacks on our collective bargaining rights, those things are important to us, they should be important to the members. I get where they're at with some of the environmental issues and why they feel the democratic party has left them, but we respect their views, that's for sure."

As for an outlook for the industry, Arbogast said it's hard to say with the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have to control the virus before the economy can get better and until we do that I think we're just going to stay right at this level."

Arbogast told CBS 3 the United Steelworkers have a process in how they choose candidates to endorse. It begins with a survey which asks the candidates where they stand on issues important to the union.

Arbogast said the steelworkers received the survey back from democratic candidate Joe Biden but did not receive a response from President Trump.

He added the steelworkers felt candidate Biden aligned with their priorities including workers' right and collective bargaining.

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

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