Via Infoshop News
Jan. 29, 2011 @ 1pm U.S. Steel Tower, Downtown Pittsburgh
WHY ARE WE RALLYING?
On January 29th, Steelworkers Local 1005 in Hamilton, Ontario will be holding a rally and march. 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 company’s headquarters in an effort to show our solidarity. We hope this show of solidarity raises workers morale and puts pressure on the bosses to do the right thing.
Steelworkers Local 1005 has been locked out by their multinational employer, U.S. Steel, since the end of November 2010 because they refused a bad deal. The workers are currently locked inside the plant, sleeping on cots and they are not expected to be allowed out for weeks.
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 loose defined benefit pensions.
WHY WOULD U.S. STEEL OFFER THE WORKERS A BAD DEAL?
The bottom line is that the company wants a higher profit. U.S. Steel is banking on the difficult economic conditions of the past few years to implement a divide-and-conquer strategy against the 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 that are retired or close to retirement, giving up on the retirement benefits would represent a bitter defeat after all the years of struggle it took to get them.
U.S. Steel has already gone after retirement benefit plans elsewhere. 1005’s sister Local in Nanticoke, Ontario had 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 said that the members there will join the lines in Hamilton.
I DON’T WORK IN CANADA, WHY DOES THIS CONCERN ME?
This multi-national corporation 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, it will ultimately have a trickle-down-effect. 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 because it gives you the security of a regular monthly income, indexed to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), for the rest of your life, and protects your purchasing power over time. If the cost of living continues to rise, pensioners without indexing would soon see a big erosion of their purchasing power. 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: http://www.uswa1005.ca/ or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This information was prepared by a Pittsburgh NEFAC member (http://www.nefac.net/).