Workers Correspondence

BALTIMORE – More than 1,300 steelworkers and their allies packed the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 2610 union hall here Feb. 20 and cheered as USWA President Leo Gerard demanded that President Bush and Congress act to save the steel industry and thousands of union jobs.

“This is a battle for our very lives,” Gerard said, adding that it was rallies like this that exerted the pressure on Bush, who initiated the appeal to the International Trade Commission (ITC) against the selling of imported steel in the U.S. told a cheering crowd of steelworkers, mostly from Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrrows Point mill.

Most of the steelworkers in the crowd were from Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point mill. Bethlehem is one of more than two dozen steel companies that have filed for bankruptcy since 1998. The Sparrows Point mill, which once employed 35,000 workers, now employs about 4,000

Many elected officials and candidates joined in a panel to discuss what must be done. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, told the crowd he was with the workers “all the way until we have a victory.”

Robert Price, a Sparrows Point Millwright and a member of the USWA Rapid Response Team said, “We may be a year or so behind LTV,” he said, “ but we are headed down the same road.”

He was referring to LTV’s plan after filing for bankruptcy to close down its mills and liquidate, a disaster for 7,500 LTV workers and their communities.

“Sparrows Point is not an obsolete mill,” he said. “The last figures I heard were that we produce 9.5 million tons of steel annually at the Point. The cold rolling mill is only two years old. It’s state of the art. We have relined our furnaces and widened the casters. It’s a fairly modern mill. If it is closed down, Maryland will lose more than 4,000 jobs.”

Ernie Greco, president of the Baltimore AFL-CIO, was cheered as he read a roll call of 37 unions that had turned out in solidarity with the embattled steelworkers.

Michael Jordan, a member of Local 37 Operating Engineers told the World, “I’m here to support our steel union brothers and sisters. We used to be the strongest steel-producing country in the world. Now we boast the highest homeless rate of any industrial country in the world. The rich take care of themselves and neglect working people. Its time for us working folks to start fighting back to save what our forefathers fought and died for.”