Resolutions supporting HR 676, the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” have been unanimously passed by two labor bodies here in Northwest Indiana in the past two weeks. The first was on March 4 by a regular union meeting of over 300 members of one of the largest steelworker locals, USWA 6787. This local represents over 3,000 workers at the Burns Harbor, Ind., plant of International Steel Group (ISG). Then on March 17 the 40,000-member Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor of the AFL-CIO passed a similar resolution.
Steelworkers across the country have been hit hard in the past year by the loss of over 10,000 jobs as almost 40 companies closed or went into bankruptcy. In Northwest Indiana, which now has the largest concentration of steel-making operations in the country, the loss was particularly hard felt. Steel companies LTV, ACME, Republic, National and Bethlehem either shut down or lost thousands of workers in plant purchases that trimmed workforces. Thousands of other workers in manufacturing have also lost their jobs in this area. These job losses are accompanied by the disastrous loss of health care for the laid off workers and their families.
Worst hit by the steel industry bankruptcies are the retirees who have lost their health care insurance for themselves and their spouses. Many retired steelworkers were already finding it difficult to make ends meet because they had their pensions reduced when the pensions were taken over by the government through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
– Paul Kaczocha, steelworker (firstname.lastname@example.org)