Workers Correspondence

The LTV shutdown of its Chicago coke plant was staggered throughout December and early January. So it’s only natural that some workers got going on the job search sooner than others. One guy’s story I want to tell you is especially sobering for laid-off steelworkers.

Mickey was told to report to the Illinois Department of Unemployment Insurance office a couple of weeks ago at 10 a.m. He had no idea what was happening. But it’s chilling to hear from the “Compo office” because you always fear your benefits will get messed up, leaving you several weeks with no money coming in.

When Mickey got there they told him, “We sure hope you don’t have any plans for today because we are going to give you four hours of tests. So he thought what am I gonna do? Can’t leave. Don’t want them to mess with the benefits. So he stayed and took the tests.

After 30 years of working in the mill, four hours of tests are quite a shock to the system. But the biggest shock was yet to come. There were 22 workers there taking the tests and Mickey said he recognized a couple from LTV.

When they got done everybody had a lot of questions. They found out the job was for Bayou Steel. I guess they recently opened a warehouse on 106th St. near the Calumet River in Chicago. The jobs paid $11 an hour, no union, no dental and no major medical. And there were only two jobs available.

Out of 22 people there all day there were only two jobs. Two jobs with $8 an hour cut in pay, with no union and no benefits.

What a jolt of reality. No wonder bosses love globalization, NAFTA and the drive to the bottom. What a bonanza for the bosses. But I’ve got news for them. On Feb. 28, 30,000 steelworkers and their allies showed that they are ready to fight for decent jobs.