WEIRTON Dozens of workers and retirees from United Steelworkers of America Local 2911 rallied in front of ArcelorMittal's Weirton plant gates Wednesday in a hastily-organized show of support for their bargaining team.
The rally, repeated at ArcelorMittal's mills across the country, was designed to send a message to the company that workers and retirees stand together.
"We don't need divisiveness," said Walter Danna, coordinator for Local 2911 retirees. "We're all in this together. It affects everyone, from active workers to retireesWe don't want to go backwards."
WEIRTON RALLY — Steelworkers gather at the steps of United Steelworkers union Local 2911 Wednesday prior to a rally at ArcelorMittal’s gate. The hastily organized demonstration, repeated at ArcelorMittal properties across the country, was designed to draw attention to the lack of progress at the bargaining table. -- Linda Harris
The USW's contract expired at midnight Saturday, but its workers remain on the job while contract talks continue. While union leaders have refused to say exactly what is holding up the talks, member updates published on the USW website cite retiree health care, pension enhancement payments and the company's refusal to "commit to continue funding the former Inland defined benefit pension plan to a minimum of 80 percent" as the major stumbling blocks.
Steven B. Jones of Mingo Junction, a 45-year employee, said it was concern over health benefits and retiree benefits that brought him to the rally.
"I'm thinking about retiring in the next few months, so it's very important," said Jones, pointing out he'd already lost his military benefits because the government decided to count spousal income toward eligibility. "Now they're trying to take these away."
Floyd Moore said he's been on the job for 46 years already, "and it might be longer" if retiree benefits are reduced.
"It's a shame, we worked all these years for them," said Moore, who works in diesel locomotive repair at the plant. "Not getting raises in a bad economy, I understand that everybody does. If the economy's bad you don't expect as much. But when they're making a big profit and then they turn around and say they want to cut wages and cut benefits, that's hard to accept."
The USW represents some 14,000 ArcelorMittal workers nationwide.