Worker’s Correspondence

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. – Over 2,000 steelworkers poured into Central High School Jan. 12 to hear United Steel Workers of America (USWA) pension experts report on the status of the LTV bankruptcy.

USWA Indiana/Illinois District Director Jim Robinson opened the meeting with an emotional plea to keep fighting for retiree health care. He praised the workers for what has been done so far but warned that the battle has only begun. Robinson said victory can be achieved if steelworkers stick together, stick with the union and keep fighting.

Pensioners were told that there was enough money for health care for a few months but then the Voluntary Employee Benefit Agreement (VEBA) fund would be depleted. VEBA is an agreement between LTV and USWA.

Currently the USWA is lobbying for the federal government to step in and guarantee the health-care benefits. Steelworkers are also concerned about how long LTV will be paying pensions and when the company will be dumping the pension plan on the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC).

The union expert on pensions wouldn’t speculate on when the company would dump the pension on the PBGC but that it will happen. The union invited the PBGC to send a representative to the meeting but they declined.

Union lawyer Paul Whitehead and Ohio District Director Dave McCall explained why the union gave up the “successor clause,” which is a part of the union contract that says if anyone buys LTV the new owner would have to honor the current contract. Simply stated, the union got the opportunity for over 2,000 steelworkers to retire, which would not have been possible otherwise.

McCall stated that somebody will buy the plants and they will have to recognize the union and that we will be working again. This shocked many in the audience and caused many to speculate on what U.S. Steel was up to. It’s been rumored that U.S. Steel is looking to buy parts of LTV’s operations.

– an LTV steelworker