The Militant (logo) 
   Vol.66/No.1            January 7, 2002 
Steelworkers strike in Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama--Steelworkers here struck Sloss Industries after rejecting company demands for workers to increase payments for medical insurance. The bosses of the steel mill are seeking to eliminate free medical insurance for most retirees and, by the third year of the contract, force workers to pay 50 percent of any premium increase.

Kyle Parks, spokesman for Sloss Industries, claimed that a slight increase in monthly pensions for retirees "would more than offset insurance costs" for retirees, reported the Birmingham News.

But strikers had a different view. "They say there is no change in pay, but by the time you get done paying new medical insurance premiums you come out taking a pay cut. And that's before you actually have to go see a doctor," one worker on the picket line explained. "If a man works all of his adult life for a company, he ought to have a right to insurance," added Jesse Barnett, United Steelworkers of America Local 12014 president.

The company's proposed contract also calls for a 10-hour-day, four-day-a-week schedule, a lower rate of pay for new employees, and tying future raises to the company's profitability figures.

Going into the third week of the strike, the 250-strong local faces a campaign by the company to tar union members with responsibility for several alleged acts of vandalism on company property.

"Everything in that plant that happens now will be blamed on us," said one worker. "And besides, it's like Fort Knox around here and nobody plans on going to jail by trying to jump that fence."

"The company thought they could divide us along age lines," one picket commented, "but the young folks are staying with it."  
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