Steelworkers urge lawmakers to defeat bills limiting unions
More than 600 steelworkers packed the marble halls of the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday asking legislators to vote down several so-called right-to-work proposals.
“We realize it’s a Republican-controlled House and Senate, but we’re hoping enough Republicans see the light and stop this,” said Jim Furan, of LaPorte, a heater at ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor plant.
At least five different proposals pending in legislative committees would take away some collective bargaining rights from union workers or prohibit non-union employees from having to contribute a fair share toward union-represented services.
“Eventually, you won’t have a union to fight for your benefit packages,” said Calvin Caldwell, of Valparaiso, a mechanic at ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor plant.
Pete Trinidad, of Portage, vice president of United Steel Workers Local 6787, said that’s exactly what Republicans want.
“They are just freewheeling attacking labor, which was a big problem for them in the last election,” Trinidad said.
But labor clearly is not giving up without a fight.
Trinidad said Tuesday was steel’s biggest lobbying day at the Statehouse in years, and steelworkers wearing blue USW ballcaps were easily spotted throughout the rotunda, hallways and galleries of the Statehouse.
State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, met and spoke with dozens of steelworkers before the House convened in the afternoon. He said he was heartened that steelworkers would take time to participate in the legislative process.
“It just reinforces what I try to work for and support, and that’s working men and women,” Moseley said.
“I couldn’t be happier for these people being down here today. They really drive home what’s important to Indiana and working families.”
Besides speaking with lawmakers, Jerome Davison, second vice president of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor, also delivered a package of more than 100 handwritten letters from steelworkers to House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, urging him to reject right-to-work legislation.
If you go
The Northwest Federation of Labor will hold an education/labor summit at 4 p.m. today at McBride Hall, 1301 Texas St., Gary, to discuss the right-to-work bills being considered by Indiana’s General Assembly. Local state legislators, business owners and academic experts will debate the legislation as well as other bills that affect Indiana’s working families. For more information call 219.617.6868.