The History of Local Union 979
On December 7, 2001, Federal Bankruptcy Judge William T. Bodah ruled LTV Steel could cease all steel making operations. Two weeks later, on December 19th, he issued a ruling allowing the company to proceed with its liquidation plans. This ruling also allowed elimination of health coverage on March 1, 2002.
During the entire bankruptcy proceedings, Cleveland steelworkers refused to give up. When word first leaked out of the LTV plan to cold idle the mill, steelworkers planned to occupy the facilities to protect the assets. Others rallied outside the LTV Cleveland offices. They appealed to the community and political leaders for support.
While some camped outside in Washington DC to take their message to Congress, more took an overnight bus trip to rally in the Nation’s capital. Steelworkers and their supporters also marched from a hospital near the mill, which had been threatened with closing, to a rally in downtown Cleveland.
Busloads of Steelworkers traveled to Youngstown to fill Bodah’s courtroom and rally on the streets outside. District Director Dave McCall assured these steelworkers that it was their determination and solidarity that allowed him to convince Judge Bodah that the steelmaking assets needed to be protected and that contract provisions allowing for early retirements should be honored.
On March 29, 2002, the PBGC took over the LTV pension plans. All LTV retirees lost their health coverage and many, including all recent retirees, saw their pensions reduced.
But, the news was not all bad. Throughout this period, McCall insisted on the need to retain steelworker jobs in Cleveland not retrain steelworkers. And, this fighting approach paid off. In February 2002, ISG (International Steel Group) purchased the Cleveland plant. Working with the Union, they recalled workers as if it were a layoff.
Soon, the Cleveland mill was up and running and making money.
Under LTV, the Cleveland plant had 5 separate Local Unions: 185, 188, 1098, 1157 and 2265. Working together to keep steelworker jobs in Cleveland and to get the plant up and running again helped eliminate past divisions. Given the smaller size of the workforce, everyone agreed it made sense to have one Local Union representing all the hourly employees at the mill. To show that the new Local Union would combine the best features of its predecessor Local Unions, the numbers 185, 188, 1098, 1157, and 2265 were added up and divided by 5 resulting in the number 979.
Local Union 979 was chartered on February 25, 2003. The initial Executive Board was President Mark Granakis, Vice President Ralph Myers, Recording Secretary Shirley Pasholk, Financial Secretary Mike Cushler, Treasurer Jim Crupper, Guide Tom Damolis, Inside Guard Ron Wilcox, Outside Guard Don Zak, Trustee Rob Garuccio, Trustee Mike Mormile, and Trustee Tony Walker.
While the predecessor Local Unions rented small offices and meeting rooms, Local Union 979 purchased a Union Hall across the street from the mill. Recognizing the role Director McCall had played in securing pensions and saving jobs, this Hall was named Dave McCall Hall.
In October 2004 ISG merged with Ispat Inland to form Mittal Steel. In 2006 Mittal Steel merged with Arcelor forming ArcelorMittal Steel, the largest steel company in the world. In addition to representing the 1400 hourly employees at the Cleveland ArcelorMittal plant, Local Union 979 has 3 amalgamates. 979-1 represents employees at Enprotech; 979-3 represents employees at Grant Railways; and 979-4 represents employees at Minte.