Worker's Solidarity Rally
Why Are We Rallying?
On January 29th, United Steelworkers Local 1005 in Hamilton, Ontario will be holding a rally and march, and calling for a day of solidarity in support of their efforts. Their purpose is to send a message to U.S. Steel, governments, corporations, and the media, that their pensions and retirement security are not for sale. We are gathering on the same day in Pittsburgh, PA at their employerï¿½s headquarters in an effort to show our solidarity. We hope this show of solidarity raises workersï¿½ morale and puts pressure on the bosses to do the right thing.
Steelworkers Local 1005 workers have been locked out by their
multinational employer, U.S. Steel, since the end of November 2010 because they refused a bad deal. U.S. Steel's lockout of 900 Hamilton steelworkers is an attempt to blackmail the union into selling out 9,000 pensioners and all future new hires. It is also very destructive to the community. If the workers accept the deal being offered by U.S. Steel, 9,000 retirees will give up the indexing of pensions and future employees will lose defined benefit pensions.
Why Would U.S. Steel Offer the Workers a Bad Deal?
The bottom line is nothing new. The company wants a higher profit at the expense of regular working people. U.S. Steel is banking on the difficult economic conditions of the past few years to implement a divide-and-conquer strategy against its workers. There is a generational divide within the workforce with half of it being over 50 and about a third being under 40. For the younger workers, such a job represents a good opportunity when compared to the temporary work that so many of them have had to do to get by. But for the older workers who are retired or close to retirement, giving up on their retirement benefits would represent a bitter defeat after all the years of struggle to get them in the first place.
U.S. Steel has already gone after retirement benefit plans elsewhere. 1005's sister Local in Nanticoke, Ontario was pressured to give in on the pension plan after an eight-month lockout last year and the Steelworkers at the Vale Inco mines in Ontario settled a year-long strike in July by giving up the defined-benefit pensions. Local 1005's president, Rolf Gerstendberger, says that they stand a better chance: "The difference between us and anybody else is that we started two years ago preparing."
They also have the support of Local 1299 of Detroit-area Great Lakes works, whose president, Marc Barragan, has declared that members there will join the picket lines in Hamilton.
I Don't Work in Canada. Why Does This Concern Me?
This multi-national corporation that employs many Pittsburgh workers is showing that they have no respect for workers on either side of the border. If we show solidarity for workers struggling to the north of us, we will continue to build the ties of solidarity that we will need to raise working conditions all around and here in Pittsburgh. We must be prepared to show corporations that workers on all sides of the border will fight to win retirement security for all!
It is important to index pensions and wages to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), because it gives workers the security of a regular monthly income, indexed for the rest of their lives, and protects purchasing power over time. If the cost of living continues to rise, and plans to cut programs like Social Security benefits are implemented, pensioners without indexing would soon see a big erosion of their purchasing power, leaving them without goods and services they need. U.S. Steel CEO Surma, who claims over $10 million annually in salary, says that U.S. workers in his empire
do not have indexed pensions so Canadians should not have them either. Mr. Surma has this backwards. U.S. workers should have similar indexed pensions as Canadians!
With support from fellow steelworkers and local Pittsburghers, coupled with their determination, Local 1005 might make U.S. Steel back down. The outcome of this struggle may set a precedent for future attempts to cut employee wages, benefits and pensions.
To follow the struggle, check out the Local's website.
This information was prepared by a Pittsburgh NEFAC member.