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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”