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Perspectiva Mundial

A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 79/No. 31      September 7, 2015



2004-15 Militant Index
Now Available Online
(front page)

Steelworkers fight bosses’ demands for concessions

Solidarity actions set when contracts expire Sept. 1

Militant/Dan Fein

Rally of 3,000 Steelworkers Aug. 21 in Gary, Indiana, against concession demands by U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal in contracts covering 30,000 that expire Sept. 1. Allegheny Technologies Inc. locked out 2,200 Steelworkers in Pennsylvania and five other states Aug. 15.

HARRISON, Pa. — A week after Allegheny Technologies Inc. locked out more than 2,200 workers, members of the United Steelworkers are staffing picket lines and winning solidarity in their fight against ATI’s concession demands and use of strikebreakers.

Meanwhile, a Sept. 1 contract expiration looms between 30,000 members of the USW and basic steel giants ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, who are also demanding major concessions; the contract covering 137,000 workers at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors expires Sept. 14; and the SMART union is in contract negotiations covering 40,000 workers at major U.S. railroads.

The USW is building a Sept. 1 “Solidarity in Steel Day of Action” in Pittsburgh and Burns Harbor, Indiana.

On the picket lines at ATI’s Brackenridge flat-rolled steel plant here and in nearby Washington, Pennsylvania, locked-out Steelworkers described how working conditions in the mills have deteriorated.

“It’s hard to take,” said bricklayer Jack Halinka, describing how ATI is pressuring him to retire in August, rather than in December when he turns 63. Halinka criticized the forced 12-hour shifts and two-tier contract ATI wants. “That’ll cause trouble for workers,” he said.

“We had 900 members working in 2011, it’s down to 575 now,” said Fran Arabia, president of Local 1196 at the Brackenridge plant. “Our people are being forced to work 12-hour shifts, six or seven days a week.”

“We can’t give in to this company,” said crane operator Mickey Karns. “The last contract was the first time we had to pay for health care, so the company got their foot in the door.”

Workers now pay no premium and have a total annual deductible of $600 for family coverage, Arabia told the Militant. ATI is demanding a $214 monthly premium with a $6,000 to $8,000 deductible. “It’s a plan designed to keep people from using it,” Arabia said. “Plus new hires will get only a health savings account of $500 per year, and no pension, just a 401(k) plan.”

Steelworkers outside the mill in Washington could see Strom Engineering personnel, who are being trained to replace the union workforce, taking breaks. Strikebreakers from Phillips Group Inc. guard the plants.

Skip Longdon, president of Local 7139-05 in Washington, told the Militant that ATI managers went to Maddio’s Pizza in Brackenridge Aug. 20 and saw a sign supporting the USW. They told the owner they would stop ordering pizza for meetings and training sessions. In response, two groups of motorcycle-riding Steelworkers rode to the shop to order pizzas. “There were about 100 of us,” said Longdon, one of the bikers. Later that day, a large contingent of Teamster bikers did the same.

Mitchel Rosenberg is a member of USW Local 10-1 at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery.

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — Some 500 Steelworkers and supporters held a “Get Fired Up! Solidarity Rally” across from the U.S. Steel corporate office here Aug. 21, protesting concessions and showing solidarity with unionists at ArcelorMittal and those locked out by ATI.

“U.S. Steel is going to test our will,” Jason Chism, president of Steelworkers Local 50, said. “If we stand up in solidarity, we will last one day longer!”

A number of Glass City Works bricklayers attended. Around 25 Steelworkers from nearby Alton Steel, who are working on a 30-day extension since their contract expired Aug. 19, took part.

Josefina Otero is a retired member of Steelworkers Local 7139-05 at ATI in Washington, Pennsylvania.

GARY, Ind. — Some 3,000 Steelworkers from the U.S. Steel mill here rallied Aug. 21. Two days earlier several hundred held a similar event near the ArcelorMittal mill in nearby East Chicago.

Four Walmart workers from Chicago with signs supporting the Steelworkers joined the march and got a warm welcome.

“This gives me a vision of what a union can be — everyone together,” said Ray Scott, one of the Walmart workers. “This is what we need at Walmart.”

“It was a great turnout today,” Erica Rogers, who has worked at the U.S. Steel mill for eight years, told the Militant. “I feel proud about my union.”

Participants held a moment of silence for Kenneth Gish, 61, a member of Steelworkers Local 6787, who died that day after falling from scaffolding in the basic oxygen furnace at the ArcelorMittal mill in Burns Harbor.

VIRGINIA, Minn. — As a small plane flew over this small Iron Range town pulling a banner reading, “STEEL RALLY TODAY 4:30,” more than 1,500 United Steelworkers taconite (iron ore) miners marched against concession demands by U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal and Cliffs Natural Resources.

A sea of protesters, their spirits buoyed by the large turnout, marched from the Miners Memorial Building to a park for a closing rally.

“If you think we will turn our backs on our retirees, bring it on!” John Arbogast, vice president of Local 1938 at U.S. Steel’s Minntac mine, told the crowd.

Small contingents from other unions in the area were present.

The contract between the Steelworkers and Cliffs Resources expires at the end of September.

The price of steel has dropped sharply in the past year, and hundreds of miners here have been laid off.

FAIRFIELD, Ala. — Some 150 Steelworkers rallied outside the Steelworkers Local 1013 hall Aug. 21 against concessions and the loss of 1,100 jobs when U.S. Steel closes its blast furnace here Nov. 17.

“For 17 years I was out there busting my heinie in the heat on rotating shifts,” Dewana Bryant, 50, one of those facing layoff, told the Militant.

“Today was my last day,” said crane operator Reginald Mills. “How am I going to support my family? These CEOs make decisions that look good on paper, but not for us.”

“We need to make sure we stick together, through the good and the bad,” said Jeff Ashford, 44, a thread tech in the pipe mill.

Speakers at a short rally included Daniel Flippo, director of USW District 9, and Daryl Dewberry, international vice president of United Mine Workers of America, District 20.

FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa. — More than 30 members of United Steelworkers Local 4889 at U.S. Steel rallied in front of the union hall here Aug. 20.

At a home-cooked meal after the rally Local President Bill Coe called for support for the 2,200 workers locked out by Allegheny Technologies Inc.

Steelworkers from Allied Tube and Conduit Corp. in Philadelphia, where 175 members will lose their jobs when the main plant closes Oct. 5, joined the event.

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How coal miners’ struggles transformed union

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