Talbert Trailer workers march for justice

Rensselaer, Ind. — “Hands off our health care!” and “No justice, no peace,” echoed through the streets here July 31 as hundreds of steelworkers marched to protest the lockout of the Talbert Trailer workers.

Talbert workers had voted “no” to a company proposal to end their health care plan. Tony Hopkins, president of Steelworkers Local 6589 at Talbert, described what happened next: “We told the company we wanted to continue to work while we negotiated a new contract with health care. But when we came to work the next day, the gates were locked and they were hiring scabs.”

“We need better laws,” Hopkins said. “We need to elect better people to make better laws.”

Hopkins was protesting attempts by the State Unemployment Insurance Board to hold back the locked-out workers’ unemployment checks. Thanks to a USWA Local 1010 president appointed to the Unemployment Insurance Board by Democratic Gov. Joseph Davis, unemployment checks were released to the Talbert workers.

Davis is currently in a close re-election race with a rich Republican candidate who represents the pharmaceutical companies.

The theme of defeating George Bush and electing Kerry and Davis was repeated by every speaker at the solidarity rally. Community support was brought by the Northwest Indiana Central Labor Council. They delivered 13,000 pounds of food from their food bank to help feed the locked-out workers. Several local unions brought checks in support. Many steel retirees, members of SOAR (Steelworker Organization of Active Retirees) attended the rally and walked the two-mile march, keeping up with the striding steelworkers.

“The lockout is a pure example of corporate greed,” charged Jim Robinson, District 7 director of the United Steelworkers of America. “They made big profits because the union and Congressman Pete Visclosky lobbied to get them military contracts. Then they turn around and abuse the workers.”

Talbert workers told this writer that Visclosky, too, has joined the locked-out workers on the picket line.

The protest ended on a high note. “We will win this fight,” predicted Robinson. “And we’ll win the elections in November.”

The author can be reached at bealumpkin@aol.com.