John Cirri’s attempted comeback at Sparrows Point falls flat

A surprise attempt to regain the top union slot is rejected by the membership. Joe Rosel new president.

john cirri 1

John Cirri last January, when steelmaking was restarted at Sparrows Point.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

A bid by a once-powerful union boss at Sparrows Point to regain his former position fizzled today as members voted overwhelmingly for his opponent.

John Cirri, longtime president of USW Local 9477 – who resigned last summer shortly before a federal judge found that his caucus had violated fair election practices – received only 196 votes.

Joe Rosel received 648 votes as president, while 245 votes were split among four other candidates, according to unofficial results released to The Brew tonight by the union.

Cirri cited health reasons for resigning from the presidency last July. He shocked many union members when he announced he would run for his old job, which one of his close allies characterized as his “rightful seat” at the steel mill.

DOL-Supervised Elections

U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar had ordered the U.S. Department of Labor to supervise today’s vote after he found that Cirri’s Red, White & Blue caucus had violated the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act by using their employer’s fax machines and e-mail system to promote their slate of candidates in 2009.

Rosel, a union contract coordinator who started working at Sparrows Point in 1978, ran on the platform of developing a strategy to end the mill’s “move from owner to owner and crisis to crisis.”

He had the backing of the Steelworkers Coalition, a group that had rebelled against Cirri’s tight control of Local 9477. He replaces interim president Jeff Mikula.

Jim Blankenship, a blast furnace operator who initiated the election-violation case, was elected zone committeeman for ironmaking.

Cirri’s loss means that he will continue as contract coordinator, which allows him to remain at the union annex building in a position appointed by the International USW. His Red, White & Blue caucus has disbanded.

New Officers Face Challenges

Other steelworkers voted into office today – nearly all of them from the Steelworkers Coalition – were Chris MacLarion as vice president, Mike Lewis as financial secretary, Eddie Bartee as treasurer, Sandy Wright as recording secretary, Sharon Pritchard as inside guard and Sharnetta Green as outside guard.

Tyrone C. Lewis was elected chairman of the grievance committee. Three trustees – Roxy Sadler, Paula Fleming and Frank Schorr – were elected, and one guide – Forrest Martin.

In addition to Blankenship, the other zone committemen are Vearnol Hazel, Boyd Fleming, Michael Baskerville, David Dearborn, Joe McDermott and Chris Paul.

The new lineup faces many challenges as RG Steel, owner of Sparrows Point, navigates through difficult financial times.

Just before Christmas, the company halted production at Sparrows Point because of a cash shortage. Operations resumed in late January after Cerberus Capital Management gave the company a $125 million cash infusion.

The sprawling Baltimore County plant is still running at a loss, but at a level that has diminished from as much as $1 million-a-day last year, according to well-informed sources.

The company has demanded changes in union work rules and more liberal use of outside contractors as it tries to stay afloat amid a market of flat steel demand and high raw material costs.

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  • guest

    Congraualtions Joe Rossell, I think you  are the right man for this job…good luck!

  • banjo

    Cirri is like some of our men at 1190. You can vote them out, but you can’t get rid of them. They come out smelling like roses. Our international needs to know, that if we vote them out of office, then they shouldn’t be able to hold any position at the hall.

  • Unellu

    Rosel ran on the platform of preventing this mill’s move from owner to owner and from crisis to crisis?  Gosh!  How does he plan to do that?  That’s a gargantuan promise he cannot keep.  The union doesn’t have the wherewithal to sell the place, buy the place or infuse money to prop up the place.  All that the union can do is to try and negotiate better deals for its members but mostly the union seems to be a creature of external circumstances, financial and others, it cannot control. 

    What was Cirri’s platform?  That the throne belongs to him, no matter what he is destined to be King?  I have been following this steel drama on the Brew for a while.  The workers have so much bile, it practically overflows on your threads into mighty floods of molten conversations.  The need for catharsis is indicative of weakness and helplessness more than strength and confidence on the part of the workers. 

    It seems Rosel has promised a lot but he can’t attenuate the pain, decrease the uncertainties and bring a greater sense of peace, purpose and security to the workers.  The fate of this mill is now in the hands of Cerberus Capital.  It pulls the puppet strings behind the scenes and it is in the steel business not out of the great kindness of its absent heart but for profit.  Investment firms are notorious for their predatory modes of behavior–they have in the past disinvested in the businesses where they invested and the disinvestment has included selling off physical plants, buildings and land holdings. 

    Cirri and Rosel have to work together and if Cirri is as tenacious for power as he sounds, this may not bode well.  Funny thing about the unions–human thirst for primacy and position get in the way of sane negotiations and in the end the lines blur between the business bosses and the union bosses–in character the same but on different sides of the aisle. 

    Unions too have become fiefdoms, losing their initial ideals and fusing with the aims of the business owners, accommodating them, conceding to them and eking out threadbare contracts.  Of what use the unions when power struggles, national and global economies, demand for products made and general market trends drive a business?  Neither the union bosses nor the business bosses have any control over most of those aspects.  That is a comfort.  We, the consumers, drive the markets.   We can make or break these tyrants and we are.

    This thread of yours, I predict ( and I hope I am wrong) will light up red with comments, until the cows come home from Alaska.        

    • Time to Go!!!

      I believe that you are right in some of your beliefs.  But one thing is for sure that the union can not grow under a dictarship. Cirri thought that he ruled with an iron fist. That dynasty has come to an end.  You are right that the elected officals must work together for the benefit of the people not for personal gain. Cirri took SOOO much from the membership and gave nothing in return .  It is time for him, Blackburn and Polanowski to return to the mills and do that work that they were hired to do.  I dont think that any of the three could under the present circumstances do the job that they were hired to do.  That is pitiful.

    • unionworker

      You seem to have great insight. I know that Rosel will have a great task before him , but I think that he is smart enough to surround himself with the right people. He wont be riding in on a white horse to singlehandedly saving the plant creating his own crisis after crisis.  

    • Steelworker

      Cirri, polanowski and blackburn made a mockery out of the nomination and election process.  We, the members voted and it is time for them to return to their mill jobs.  These SOB’s restructured our jobs so that we have to do two jobs on most lines.  Let them do two jobs and see how they like it. And Blackburn, I don’t mean doing your job and joe basrtal’s for 60-70 hrs a week, working every holiday just to put the time in…..

    • URkidding

      I like most of what you said except “Cirri and Rosel” have to work together- Cirri has never worked for the good of anyone but himself. Work and Cirri is an oxymoron. Or in Cirri’s case just a plain old moron. He is worthless, ruthless, and needs to find a place to hide away from the steelworkers who he has lied, cheated and frauded for far too long. Don’t underestimate the abilities of Rosel  President and MacLarion as Vice President. This pair might surprise you in their leadership abilities and charisma and knowledge of the steel industry, the contract and the ability to get people to work together for the good of the whole union membership. Just leave cirri where he belongs – OUT!!!

  • Good Bye and good ridance

    Its a shame that the International defended Jon cirri when they know he did wrong.  He was President for 2 1/2 years illegally.  I guess “old” laws can get youy in trouble iof you break them!!

    • Wci8757

      he’s one of dime bag dave’s pet lappers

    • Disgusted21

      yeah- it is funny how the right people win an election run by the DOL- I guess Cirri and Polanowski’s Van Service went out of business when Russo left.
       Blackburn has always been as self-serving as Cirri and Polanowski. They have NEVER served the membership – just themselves, their wives, girlfriends,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

  • Bmore girl

    Union “boss”?  Bosses don’ t elected or lose elections.  Please stop using perjoratives titles when describing elected union officials. 

    • Union Boss Good Bye

      Corrupt “union bosses” win elections illegally and the International Union defends this? What does that tell you about the International? 

      • Wci8757

        that tells me birds of a feather flock together.

    • Disability Pension

      Rosel should do to cirri what cirri has done to Rosel.  I think cirri knows what Im talking about.  Get UR work boots ready boys!!

      • Wci8757

        you don’t want to devastate them do you. do you think they have any idea what a pair of work boots look like.

        • ICUC

          if ciirri hadn’tr F’ed over Huber he might have been able to get a disability pension.  Oh, thats right I forgot hes in perfect health now..  Good Luck jon!! and take your two flunkes with you….

          • Jake

            U know , its such a shame that not all red, white and blue people were crooks.  Cirri, polanowski and Blackburn got all of them in trouble and these three ended up with the cushy jobs while eveybody else is F’ed over.

          • Fight for what U believe In

            Local 9477 should be proud of Blankenship.  The true heart of the union is to believe in what  U fight for and fight for what U believe in. Its such a shame that cirri and the International knew they were going to lose when this went to District court.. He illegally remained as Presdent to two and a half years.  Im glad the membership spoke uo and said ENOUGH is ENOUGH11

  • I80cycles

    the question no one answered BEFORE the election. Both Rosel AND Cirri were contract coordinators. Which one(S)  neglected to report to the Membership the language related to Restructuring? The Union  denied the contract draft the Brew posted before the vote, however it WAS the contract.  Whoever chose to keep that language “hush-hush”, and deny it, should have their Union card torn up.

    • Wci8757

      they knew exactly what was in the contract.

    • NM

      Cirri is the only one that should be held accountable.  He was the only person who voted on behalf of local 9477. And of course he voted yes and then tried to deny that to the membership.

      • Warpig

         The brew had a report here when Cirri said he did not know they were going after the incentive. he seemed as though he was surprised and shocked about this but STILL voted to send the contract to us.

        I wonder if any of the Presidents of the locals have ever voted no on any of the contracts that we have gotten?

        • Wci8757

          there all scared to death of there puppet master. that’s why they all vote yes.

  • WPSC

    Congrats to our members in Baltimore for showing a few lap dogs the door ! Would be perfect if we could find a way to show their master McCall the way out as well !! Maybe then we could work on reclaiming our union ! You have definitely taken a step in the right direction. Best wishes to all at SP and to Joe Rosel also.

    • Wci8757

      dime bag dave is the firt one i would like to see go.

  • keith

    congradulations to Chris Paul

  • Tin Man

    What happened to his “rightful place”?  His rightful place is the job the he was hired to do.

    • Disgusted

      poor cold mill people – he screwed a lot of them in his time

      • Wci8757

        time to pay the piper.

  • HS

    Cirri is OLD news, he needs to step aside for younger people who have the energy to do the job!!!!

  • Rocketman

    U see how cirri looked out for himself and polanowski and then shoved the contract up the asses of the membership. Both of them need to get thier hands dirty and work for a living the free ride is over…

    • Wci8757

      they could have cared less. they knew them big fat do nothing coordinators jobs were waiting for them. a gift from there puppet master dime bag dave.

  • Fedup

    Cirri is a cheat – runs crooked elections, only ever looked out for himself, his wife, his son-in-law, and all the peeps that were gonna kissup and worship his ugly, demeaning mug. Nobody is gonna miss him or his cronies. He set up all the Joint ventures – the closing of the machine shop – the destruction of the Mobile equipment Dept, thw whse – all so he could get perks for himself and his friends and family. He divided a great union family with his hatred toward anyone who disagreed with him, or wouldn’t kiss the ring. He aweved up a contract that was way below par compared to Big Steel. None of his actions are surprising,,,, what goes arund ….comes around – rats eat each other. He destroyed the annex and all the hard work that others before him built. He should hide in shame….. but we all know he has no concious, or moral compass to tell him he is shameful. The best thing to happen to the USW in a long time. Goodbye Cirri – don’t ever come back.

    • Wci8757

      it’s sad when your own membership doesn’t want anything to do with him.

    • WPSC

       I must say, that pretty much sums up what these low life bums have done to all of us !! Very good post. Unfortunately, the snake still has a head, and it’s name is Dimebag Dave McCall. He is the union destroying creep we should all collectively be setting our sights upon. Eradicate him, and the lapdogs have nobody to feed or care for them. You fellas did a standup job in getting rid of one high level lapdog though !!

      • layedoffwithseniority

        we will see if 1190 will get rid of the family and friends plan, and use seniority now, and fight to get our jobs back, we will see after 1st. of may. but i fear the new people in office will be just as bad . we will see, i sure hope not and we can be a union again.

  • Riotact666

    So, when is the bank account going to run dry again??

  • Pack UR Bags

    Its a good thing that cirri finished his home improvements with all the area, safety coordinators and trainers.  Its a good thing that Russo was willing to pay for all this.  just ask Rehak who was fired for sitting home while collecting 100 hourpaychecks. No wonderthis companyis in serious trouble!!! Im glad the membership finally wised up and said Thanks, But NO THANKS!!NOT THIS TIME.  Its time for ciiri, polanowski and blackburn to go back in the mill and work.  The annex doesnt want these snitches anymore…..

    • Wci8757

      amen brother.

  • Ridem’ Cowboy

    Blackburn needs to get in that saddle and ride it on out of HERE!!!!

  • HalSaxby

    Remember, this is essentially a demotion for Rosel. He chose to run in an attempt to save the plant and he may be smart enough to pull it off. For certain, he is smarter than anybody that he’ll contend with on the company side of the fence. 

  • Doughnutman

    What will cirri do? God knows he can’t work and we have far too many bullshitters!!!

    • Wci8757

      then he would fit right in with the international.

      • Doughnutman

        These people have lived off the fat of the land far too long they need to get a real job and see how the other half lives…

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