Ohio workers: ‘Outsource Bush’

On April 24, 2003, George W. Bush visited the Timken Roller Bearing plant in Canton, Ohio, and bragged to assembled workers that Timken is living proof that his corporate tax cuts are working, providing “more money for jobs.” Bush went on to say, “The future is bright for the families that work here.” But this month, only 13 months after Bush’s visit, Timken announced that it is closing all three of its Canton plants, destroying 1,300 jobs.

The news came just as Bush flew into Youngstown, Ohio, at taxpayer expense for a similar pep rally at Youngstown State University. Like a snake oil salesman, Bush bragged that community clinics are the answer for 44 million Americans who lack health insurance. His Medicare drug plan is just the medicine for seniors forced to choose between food and prescriptions. But folks in the Mahoning Valley must be wondering: Is a visit from Bush the kiss of death? If Bush steals a second term, will health clinics and Medicare meet the same fate as those Timken workers?

It was Bush’s 17th visit to Ohio, which he narrowly carried in 2000. All around him in Youngstown were the signs of a city decimated by steel mill closings. In nearby Niles, MCI recently announced that 700 high-tech jobs are being outsourced. Ohio has lost 169,700 manufacturing jobs since Bush took office. The few community clinics are swamped by the jobless workers without health insurance.

Steelworkers picketed the rally, chanting, “Outsource Bush.” A lot of people in the Buckeye State agree. Democrat John Kerry has taken a 49 percent to 45 percent lead over Bush in a recent poll of likely Ohio voters. A lot can happen between now and Nov. 2. But working people have everything to gain and nothing to lose in outsourcing Bush back to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

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Memorial Day, 1937

This Memorial Day, friends and descendants of steelworkers killed in the 1937 Chicago Memorial Day Massacre are honoring their memory and rededicating themselves to the cause of workers’ rights. The United Steelworkers of America and the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees are hosting a commemoration near the site of the Republic Steel bloodbath. Organizers said they expected the May 30 commemoration to be beautiful and dignified, and to mobilize steelworkers and friends to push Bush out the door in 2004.

Eyewitnesses from May 30, 1937, said the day began with a festive solidarity gathering for the Republic Steel strikers, their families and friends. Over 1,000 people – including 200 women and children – had come to the holiday picnic and rally for union recognition and a contract. They were not expecting a police riot, although they couldn’t help but notice 500 Chicago police gathering nearby. Their fellow workers at U.S. Steel had already won a union contract. The right to form a union was protected by the Wagner Act, a new federal law at that time.

But Tom Girdler, the arrogant CEO at Republic, boasted he “would pick apples before signing a union contract with a bunch of Communists.”

Union organizer Herb March was one of those clubbed by the police that day. March fell, but rose to see bodies lying in pools of blood. Some had been shot after they were clubbed. March helped carry the wounded to safety. Their warm blood soaked through his shirt. Over 100 were shot in the back. Ten died. A congressional investigation eventually exposed the police riot but nobody was punished.

But in the end the workers won their contract.

This year, workers’ rights are again under severe attack. The mentality of disregard for law and human life promoted by our commander-in-chief both at home and in Iraq is the same mentality that led Chicago police to fire point blank at a crowd of steelworkers. With unity, determination and hard work we too can win and uphold the legacy of the Republic Steel strikers.