ROSEMONT, Ill. – Scores of active Indiana steelworkers and retired Chicago workers greeted executives and customers of AK (Armco-Kawasaki) Steel Corporation with an angry picket line, Oct. 8, demanding a contract. Three years ago AK locked out 650 members of USWA 169 in Mansfield, Ohio. The company had operated successfully under a union contract for over 50 years. AK brought scab labor in the back door, while it pushed union steelworkers out the front gate.

AK came to the O’Hare Airport Hyatt, in suburbs of Chicago, to announce that it had invented “clean steel,” metal that kills germs.

“How can a dirty company make ‘clean’ steel,” union steelworkers and supporters shouted while suits carried brief cases across their picket line.

The busload of retired Chicago workers, members of the Alliance for Retired Americans AFL-CIO, was sparked to ‘get on the bus’ by their Seniors Organized for Justice sub-committee.

Veteran workers kept in step with the fast moving picket line. Tom Feinberg, a retired teacher, has a bum leg and hip but his scooter propelled him along. Retired Wisconsin steelworkers, Benny Munoz and Aniceto Jiminez, helped each other supported by a crutch and a cane. “What do we want? Contract!” belted out Joyce Lightfoot alternating between a cane and folding chair. Their 80-plus years didn’t slow down Harriet Glover, 40 years at US Steel, or Wisconsin Steelworker leader, Frank Lumpkin. Juanita Andrade and Maxine Feinberg sang out a steady stream of fighting union tunes including “Union Maid” and “Solidarity Forever.”

A performance of street theater climaxed the solidarity protest of Illinois and Indiana workers. Workers acted out a skit on the sidewalk in the midst of the picket line that prompted a wave of laughter. Workers, now actors, exposed the greed and profit-hungry owners of AK. Workers roared but AK called the cops. All six Rosemont police cars rolled up on the picket line.

Their work finished on this day, workers filed back on their buses for home. As they pulled out, they vowed “We’ll be back! Just one more day than AKSteel!”

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Rosita Johnson
Rosita Johnson

Retired Philadelphia public school teacher Rosita Johnson has devoted her time and energy in organizing material assistance to South African students and teachers before and after the defeat of apartheid.