The Guardian April 19, 2000


USA: Fighting the steel war

Six thousand workers, their families and supporters held a rally in 
Mansfield, Ohio, in support of locked out workers of Mansfield steel plant 
AK Steel. United Steelworkers of America (USWA) President George Becker, 
speaking at the huge rally in Mansfield's Central Park, called the lockout 
of AK Steel workers an "historic struggle" against a corporation using 
"every conceivable technique to destroy the union."

Mandatory overtime, seniority, jobs and outsourcing are the core issues.

The company is attempting to recruit more "replacement workers" in the 
city, neighbouring towns and in various parts of the country, especially 
the South.

The company has attempted to beat USWA members into submission with a 
seven-month lockout, goon squad terrorism, refusal to bargain and by trying 
to use scab labour.

The lockout is causing great hardship to families.

Mansfield Mayor Lydia Reid is also feeling the tension.

"The lockout is a strain for everyone. We have these guards walking around 
in their jack-boots making everyone nervous", she said.

The city is striving for local control over Securecorp security guards 
being brought into the city by AK Steel.

Mansfield City Council passed a city ordinance granting local city and 
police authorities the legal right to secure names and identities of the 
imported guards, many of whom are reported to be working under assumed 
names because of extensive police records.

AK Steel's response is to sue the city for passing the ordinance.

"AK Steel is hiring batteries of high priced corporate lawyers to sue the 
city of Mansfield, the union and our members", Becker said.

Bill Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO announced the formation of a 
legal defence fund and called for donations from all unions.

He said that "legal defence is becoming a major problem for unions under 
corporate attack".

Mark Robertson, President of USWA, Local 169, which represents the 
Mansfield steelworkers and whose members are being hauled into court by the 
company, said "the only crime being committed in Mansfield is the AK Steel 
lockout".

Members of Congress Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland addressed the rally.

Strickland, who comes from the Ohio Valley, said, "There is a war in this 
country! Workers fight for justice on one side and corporate interests are 
on the other side. Every man and woman who supports justice supports the 
workers!"

Steelworkers from Chicago brought $30,000 for the locked out Mansfield 
steelworkers.

Dave McCall, director of USWA Ohio District 1, lashed out at the charges of 
violence being lodged against the Mansfield local and his members. "AK 
Steel is the source of all the violence", he said.

Women of Steel organisations from around the State spoke and donated money 
they had raised. Other union delegations brought financial contributions 
totalling nearly $100,000. The AFL-CIO pledged the support of its 65 
affiliated unions with a membership of 13 million.

Ed Fire, President of the International Union of Electrical Workers, told 
the assembled crowd that they were present at an "historic occasion" and 
that the struggle in Mansfield is of major significance in the battle 
against multi-national corporations and their free trade global economy.

He quoted at length a very moving passage written by Eugene V Debs wherein 
Debs condemned the entire corporate world for unceasing, never-ending 
attacks on the welfare of working people, and said labour's mission is to 
"emancipate the workers of the world".

Fire emphasised that Deb's statement is more true today than ever. 
"Corporate control of the world economy has to be met with the organisation 
of workers in every country", he said.

Becker ended the rally by telling the Mansfield steelworkers, "This is your 
plant, you have rights here."

* * *
Taken from two articles by Wally Kaufman, People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party, USA.

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