So long, partner! What happened to my $ 20,000?

During the 1980s, when LTV Steel was going through its first bankruptcy, the company got concessions from our union (the United Steelworkers of America). It was supposed to save our jobs and we would get most of the money back when we retired. We have been through so many battles with LTV that I don’t remember the exact details, but we gave up $2-$3 an hour in wages.

The company was to keep half of the money for themselves and the other half of the money was to go into stock that would be given to us when we retired. All the concessions would help LTV become productive, competitive, modern, high-tech, etc. The stock would go up in value and we would be on easy street when we retired.

Well, some hard reality – like overproduction, globalization, corporate greed and mismanagement – got in the way of that little fairy tale. LTV made lots of money in the early 1990s and had a billion dollars in the bank in the late 1990s.

But by 2001 they were in bankruptcy and going out of business. They were shutting down completely and many workers, including myself, were forced to retire early.

Fortunately, our union gave up its concession policy and we were able to get early retirements and not be stuck with nothing, like Enron workers.

So my day comes to fill out the papers for retirement and we eventually get to the stock question. Well, it turns out that, since I was retiring early (right, like that was my choice), I was entitled to $19,000. Since the company was going out of business the stock was worth nothing.

I could, as an unsecured creditor, sign papers that would go to court in Youngstown, Ohio. I would receive $10 minus taxes. $10 – out of $23,000. Actually it should be double that to get the full amount taken in wages. That’s a lot of money, now.

It boggles the mind when you think of 1980s wages and prices. $10 out of $23,000 – what a scam!

When you think of the 10,000 to 15,000 steelworkers, that’s close to $1 billion that the workers worked for but will never see. Money straight to the corporation for them to blow (which LTV did). $10 out of $23,000 – I think that’s what workers should think about when companies start talking about stock deals. Get defined benefit pension plans, don’t privatize social security. Remember $10 paid out of $23,000 owed.