Who to go to for advice while negotiating an important contract with a large steel company?
For the United Steelworkers (USW) that would be the same law firm that helped negotiate the termination of benefits and pensions for 4,000 USW workers at Sparrows Point and other RG Steel mills.
The Brew has discovered that the USW hired Willkie Farr & Gallagher, chief counsel for RG Steel, to advise the union in its current contract talks with ArcelorMittal.
The surprise disclosure came in an filing yesterday at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington.
Matthew A. Feldman, a partner at Willkie, noted in a “Fourth Supplemental Affidavit” that the law firm was “recently retained by the USW” to provide “advice” regarding “certain corporate, tax and securities law issues implicated in the ongoing negotiations of the collective bargaining agreement with a steel manufacturer that is also a party in interest in these cases.”
The party in question is ArcelorMittal, who has been involved in a property easement dispute arising from the sale of RG Steel’s Warren, Ohio, mill.
Earlier this month, the Willkie firm represented RG Steel in its “settlement agreement” with the USW that terminated all SUB (supplemental unemployment benefits) on August 10 – and all health benefits, pensions and life insurance for unionized RG workers on August 31
Common Thread: Dave McCall
The connecting tie between RG Steel and the ArcelorMittal negotiations is USW District 1 Director, David McCall.
As chief union negotiator in the RG bankruptcy case, McCall was the sole signer of the settlement agreement that terminated the union’s contract with RG Steel, effective this Friday.
RG Steel is expected to retain only about 100 union workers until Sparrows Point is sold to liquidator Hilco Industries and Warren to property developer C.J. Betters, which is expected to take place in mid-to-late September.
McCall is also chairman of the USW committee that is negotiating a new contract with America’s biggest steel producer, ArcelorMittal.
The current contract ends this Saturday, and ArcelorMittal is demanding a two-tier wage scale similar to the auto industry, in which new hires will receive lower wages and no pension benefits.
$1,090 an Hour Fee
Lawyer Feldman did not disclose what advice Willkie Farr is giving to the USW – or the fees it is charging the union.
In the RG Steel case, Feldman received $1,090 an hour, and has billed RG Steel $240,236 in fees between May 31 and July 31, according to bankruptcy court records.
Altogether, the Willkie Farr group has billed RG Steel $2.97 million for two months of lawyering.
Here is the breakdown of Willkie Farr’s June 2012 bill.
(NOTE: The Feldman filing can be found here at docket #0997.)