Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Thousands march and rally for steel contract

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Getting their message across: Northwest Indiana union steelworkers marched and rallied

for a fair contract Tuesday on Ind. 149 in Burns Harbor.

(Photo provided)

By KEVIN NEVERS

The voices of 4,000 United Steelworkers, their families, and their supporters in the community were raised in Duneland on Tuesday.

The message to ArcelorMittal USA and U.S. Steel Corporation was a simple one:

The Steelworkers are standing solid.

They want nothing more--but certainly nothing less--than a fair contract.

And they won’t relinquish the protections hard-won for them on the backs of their brothers and sisters over the last half century.

Representing every USW local in Northwest Indiana, they began gathering in the early afternoon at 6787’s hall on Ind. 149. From there they bussed to the site of the old Westport Community Center in Burns Harbor. And then they marched, north to U.S. 12 and on to the USA Building near the East Gate.

Local 6787 President Pete Trinidad couldn’t make it. He’s still in Pittsburgh, on the negotiating committee, talking, protecting the protections, USW District 7 Strategic Organizer Jack Tipold told the Chesterton Tribune.

In his stead Vice-President Tim Dobkins welcomed the union’s guests of honor: gubernatorial candidate John Gregg; State Rep. and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City; State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage; State Sen. Karen Talian, D-Portage; Portage mayoral candidate Brendan Clancy: Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds.

All of them made their support for the union crystal clear. They recognize, Dobkins said, that Duneland, Porter County, the whole of Northwest Indiana, were built on a foundation laid by the Steelworkers, that fairness to the Steelworkers is the same as fairness to the communities they live in, that turning the clock back on the union would be pulling the rug out from under Chesterton and Gary and Portage and Michigan City.

Also on Tuesday, at ArcelorMittal USA’s HQ in Chicago and at U.S. Steel’s in Pittsburgh, thousands of other Steelworkers marched, only hours after their contract expired at midnight. They’ve agreed to work for now without a contract. Another 2,200 USW members weren’t given the chance to make that decision, after their contract with Allegheny Technologies Inc. expired on Aug. 15 and they were locked out of a dozen of the company’s plants.

ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, citing a disparity between fixed costs and slipping revenues, have proposed imposing monthly health-insurance premiums and deductibles on active members; eliminating the current health plan for Medicare-eligible retirees and arranging for them to shop for supplemental insurance; reducing incentive payments; reducing vacation pay; and making fundamental changes in the way overtime is calculated.

The union, however, has maintained since negotiations began late in June that ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel are using a temporary market downturn--an influx of imported steel, free-falling oil prices, and a strong dollar--as an excuse to permanently erode the basic labor agreement.

Or as Trinidad said in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, “The same companies that we helped to create are now attacking us.”

 

Posted 9/2/2015

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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