A Glorious Day for Labor

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

Morning in America, Sept. 1, 2015.  It is a day which probably started out like any other for millions of working families.  The usual morning routines of making the coffee, having breakfast, a quick shower, and in some cases, getting the children off to school were already in full swing.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the morning was taking on a much different tone.  Thousands of Steelworkers from all over the country were mobilizing at the United Steelworkers (USW) International Headquarters for one purpose: the fight for survival of the American worker.  The focus would be on the troublesome state of contract negotiations between the Steelworkers and U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal and the stalled talks with specialty steel producer Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI), who locked out 2,300 Steelworkers.

After rousing words of encouragement from USW International Vice President Tom Conway, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and others, Steelworkers, active and retired, took to the streets of downtown Pittsburgh and began their vocal and lively march towards ATI headquarters in PPG Place.  There, the voices of thousands thundered through the streets as onlookers cheered from the sidewalks and ATI office workers gazed down at the crowds’ fervor. Fran Arabia, president of USW Local 1196 at the Brackenridge ATI mill, spoke passionately about ATI “wants to take everything away from us, and throw us away!” He told the crowd: “We’re not going to let that happen, not today, not tomorrow.  We are on the right side of history, and we are taking a stand for American jobs!”

With high spirits and substantial motivation, the massive crowd snaked through the streets towards the next target of their ire, U.S. Steel headquarters on Grant Street.  Marching with a purpose, and thundering their slogans between the canyons of stone, glass and steel, they were greeted by the blaring of car horns and cheering onlookers.  Businessmen in suits shook the hands of Steelworkers and boisterously proclaimed for us to “keep up the good fight!”  The marchers’ pace picked up speed as U.S. Steel’s tower was in sight.  They stormed up the steps past security guards and made it to the glass doors of the tower, peacefully impeding movement in and out of the structure for a few moments.  With chants of, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Mario has got to go!” as well as others, thundering through the concourse, the marchers’ purpose was achieved. Equally guilty of avarice as ATI’s CEO, Richard Harshman, U.S Steel CEO Mario Longhi has been a prominent face of what many have described as the corporate greed which permeates this country at the moment.

Longhi, as well as Harshman, and billionaire CEO, Lakshmi Mittal, want to cripple their workers, while hauling in huge salaries and rewards. Profits made from the blood, sweat and hard efforts of Steelworkers are going into their bank accounts, while their negotiators come to the bargaining table offering nothing but concessions. They want to set collective bargaining back seventy years by stripping away health benefits, overtime pay, biddingrights, safety rules and many other contractual guarantees which our members fought for, and sometimes died to achieve, for all workers and their families.

On Sept. 1, 2015, Steelworkers answered this greed and concessionary talk with a deafening roar of “NO!” Social media out of Pittsburgh was abuzz with stories of how people in office buildings hundreds of feet over the march could hear the protestors’ words clearly.  Other social media described Pittsburghers who had waited for years to hear such enthusiasm again.  Many news outlets from Pittsburgh, the country and around the world covered this boisterous but peaceful protest.  Papers such as the Wall Street Journal and other business periodicals took notice.  Politicians such as Scott Walker and his ilk are taking notice as well and they should be concerned.  The labor movement is gaining traction.  Polls of younger people are showing they are getting more interested in organizing a union in their workplace. 

It was a glorious day for labor, a glorious day for the United Steelworkers. 

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You can contact Richard on Twitter @stlwrkr4889.

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