CINCINNATI — Steelworkers continued their fight to recover their “shutdown pensions” at a rally here outside the federal courthouse Aug. 11.

The workers, members of the United Steelworkers of America, had negotiated pension benefits when their company, Republic Technologies International (RTI), announced plans to shut down operations and declare bankruptcy in 2002. Later, however, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., a federal agency, refused to recognize the agreement. No shutdown pension benefits have been paid. About 2,500 workers are involved.

The presence of the 60 or more workers at the Aug. 11 rally brought attention to how the men and women of important industry are mistreated and devalued by employers and agencies uninterested in the workers’ futures. Inside the courthouse, a federal appeals court was hearing the workers’ appeal.

The rally was opened by Sister Monica McGloin of the Cincinnati Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice, who said, “People of faith must support workers. They are the backbone of society.”

Dan Radford from the Cincinnati Labor Council said the way our society treats workers is a reflection of how people treat each other generally, raising the plight of the workers to a moral issue. “We represent the tip of the iceberg,” Radford said. “If we don’t insist upon and receive justice, we will lose faith in government.”

Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio), whose father was a steelworker, echoed this theme when he called the denial of the pension benefits “immoral.” Strickland read a message from presidential candidate John Kerry, expressing solidarity with the workers.

Kerry acknowledged the two-year fight waged by the workers and reminded them that their situation symbolizes George Bush’s disregard for worker rights. He gave full support for the workers in their bid to recover their shutdown pension benefits.

The author can be reached at organizar @ hotmail.com.

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